May 28, 2005

Actor Eddie Albert Dies at Age 99

Eddie Albert, the versatile stage, screen and television actor who co-starred as the Park Avenue lawyer who sought happiness down on the farm in the popular 1960s' sitcom "Green Acres," has died. He was 99.

Albert, an outspoken environmentalist and humanitarian activist, died Thursday night at his home in Pacific Palisades of pneumonia, according to his son Edward Laurence Albert.

According to his son, Albert was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease about 10 years ago, but still lived an active and happy life and remained at his home throughout.

In an acting career that spanned more than six decades, the blond, blue-eyed Albert was initially typecast as what has been described as an amiable fellow with a "corn-fed grin."

As Gregory Peck's news photographer pal in "Roman Holiday" (1953), Albert earned the first of his two Academy Award nominations for best supporting actor.

His second Oscar nomination came two decades later playing Cybill Shepherd's wealthy, exasperated father in "The Heartbreak Kid," the 1972 Neil Simon-Elaine May comedy.

Among Albert's nearly 100 film credits — a mix of comedies, dramas and musicals — are "Oklahoma!," "I'll Cry Tomorrow," "Teahouse of the August Moon," "The Sun Also Rises," "The Joker Is Wild," "Beloved Infidel," "The Young Doctors," "The Longest Day," "Captain Newman, M.D." and "Escape to Witch Mountain."

Albert, who scored critically acclaimed dramatic performances on live television in the 1950s, was particularly memorable when he turned his good-guy screen image on its head — as he did playing the sadistic warden in director Robert Aldrich's 1974 comedy-drama "The Longest Yard," starring Burt Reynolds.

"There's no actor working today who can be as truly malignant as Eddie Albert," Aldrich told TV Guide in 1975. "He plays heavies exactly the way they are in real life. Slick and sophisticated."

At the time, Albert was co-starring as a retired bunco cop opposite Robert Wagner as his former con man son in "Switch," a private-eye drama that ran for three seasons on CBS.

But Albert is best remembered for "Green Acres," which aired on CBS from 1965 to 1971 and continues to have an afterlife on cable TV. In it, Albert played Oliver Wendell Douglas, the successful Manhattan lawyer who satisfies his longing to get closer to nature by giving up his law practice and buying — sight-unseen — a rundown 160-acre farm near the fictional town of Hooterville. Eva Gabor co-starred as his malaprop-dropping socialite wife, Lisa.

A spin-off of "Petticoat Junction," "Green Acres" featured a zany cast of hayseed characters, including Mr. Haney (Pat Buttram), the con man who sold the tumbledown farm to the big-city couple.

Albert previously had turned down series offers, including "My Three Sons" and "Mister Ed," unwilling to forgo his movie career for a medium he felt was "geared to mediocrity."

But then his agent told him the concept of the proposed CBS comedy series: a city slicker comes to the country to escape the aggravations of city living.

"I said, 'Swell. That's me. Everyone gets tired of the rat race. Everyone would like to chuck it all and grow some carrots. It's basic. Sign me,'" Albert told TV Guide. "I knew it would be successful. Had to be. It's about the atavistic urge, and people have been getting a charge out of that ever since Aristophanes wrote about the plebs and the city folk."

Of course, the ancient Greek playwright didn't create characters like pig farmer Fred Ziffel (Hank Patterson), whose scene-stealing pet pig, Arnold, watched television.

"Eddie Albert had an easy-going, friendly, guy-next-door appeal, and it translated perfectly to television," said Ron Simon, curator of television at the Museum of Radio and Television in New York. "His personalty was exactly the sort of laid-back charm that is necessary to succeed in television for a long time."

Indeed, Albert not only starred in his own TV series in three different decades — the `50s, `60s and `70s — he hosted two variety shows and a game show in the early `50s and frequently showed up through the years as a guest star in comedy and drama series, as well as variety shows. At the close of the 1960s, Albert even appeared on "The Ed Sullivan Show," reading legendary radio writer Norman Corwin's "Prayer for the `70s."

"His versatility and likability," Simon said, "were his major emblems on television."

The son of a real estate agent, Albert was born Edward Albert Heimberger on April 22, 1906, in Rock Island, Ill. When he was a year old, his family moved to Minneapolis, where he developed an early interest in show business.

To pay his way through the University of Minnesota, where he studied drama, Albert washed dishes and worked nights managing a movie theater, where he served as master of ceremonies for a weekly magic show.

Albert, who also sang at amateur nights, left the university in his junior year and joined a musical trio that performed on a local radio station. After the announcers kept referring to him on the air as Eddie Hamburger, he dropped Heimberger and adopted his middle name for his last.

The singing trio performed in Chicago, St. Louis and Cincinnati, but broke up after playing small clubs in New York. Albert eventually teamed with a singer named Grace Bradt and they spent a year as the singing stars of "The Honeymooners," an NBC morning radio show.

After working in summer stock, Albert landed his first Broadway role in "O Evening Star" in 1935. The play closed in less than a week, but Albert was back on Broadway in 1936, co-starring in producer-director George Abbott's production of "Brother Rat," a hit comedy about three friends at a Virginia military academy.

The now-established Albert appeared in another Abbott comedy production, "Room Service," in 1937 and, in 1938, co-starred in the Rodgers and Hart musical "The Boys from Syracuse."

The same year, he made his movie debut re-creating his stage role in the Warner Bros. film version of "Brother Rat." While signed to the studio, the restless Albert would take long sailing trips down the California coast in a ketch.

In 1939, while sailing off the coast of Baja California, he heard rumors of secret submarine fueling stations, and when he returned home he reported to Army intelligence that Japanese "fishermen" were making hydrographic surveys of the coast.

On later sailing trips, he made reports of German Nazi activities in Mexico. Prior to Pearl Harbor, he joined a Mexican circus owned by his friends, the Escalante Brothers. And while touring Mexico as the "flyer" in a six-man trapeze act, Albert gathered even more intelligence.

"Between shows, I'd be able to wander around and pick up information," he said in a 1947 interview. "I had the perfect disguise, of course. It was a very profitable trip. Despite the Rover Boy overtones, I got solid satisfaction whenever I sent a tip in."

Seven months after the war began, Albert joined the Navy. After graduating from officers training school, he was assigned to an amphibious transport ship and saw action in the South Pacific. Later, he was assigned to the Navy's training films branch.

After the war, Albert returned to Hollywood "utterly forgotten, and rightly so," he told the Toronto Star in 1988. "What had I ever done? I took everything they could throw at me. Pictures like 'The Dude Goes West' and 'The Fuller Brush Girl.' I worked myself back up, but I never wanted to be a star. I was aiming to play the star's best friend."

Inspired by his experience with military training films, he launched Eddie Albert Productions in 1946. The company made 16-millimeter industrial films and educational films for schoolchildren, including two then-controversial sex-education films.

Albert also returned to Broadway in 1949, singing and dancing as the leading man in the musical "Miss Liberty." It ran for 308 performances before Albert returned to a Hollywood that was being transformed by a new thing called television.

Albert, who had made his television debut in 1948, appeared in numerous live dramatic showcases throughout the 1950s such as "Playhouse 90," "Studio One" and "General Electric Theater."

In 1952, he starred in a short-lived family situation comedy for CBS-TV, "Leave It to Larry." He later hosted a live musical variety series ("Nothing But the Best"), hosted and sang, danced and acted in another live NBC variety series ("Saturday Night Revue") and hosted a CBS game show ("On Your Account").

In 1954, Albert and his former actress-singer wife, Margo, whom he married after his Navy discharge in 1945, had a successful nightclub act that played New York and other cities around the country. In 1960, Albert returned to Broadway, replacing Robert Preston in the title role in "The Music Man."

Over the years, Albert explored remote parts of the world. In the 1930s, he spent time on a tiny, deserted island in Nova Scotia as well as in the Mexican wilderness. In the 1950s, he visited the Congo to discuss malnutrition with Albert Schweitzer. He stayed with Schweitzer for several months and later wrote about the experience. And in 1969, Albert flew to the Klondike with an expedition trying to find the arctic cabin where Jack London searched for gold and did some of his writing. They found the cabin, which was dismantled and reassembled in Oakland's Jack London Square.

In the late 1960s, Albert's attention turned to ecology. He did extensive reading on the subject as well as talking to experts in the field.

In 1969, he accompanied a molecular biologist from UC Berkeley to Anacapa Island off the California coast to observe the nesting of pelicans. What they found were thousands of collapsed pelican eggs

"The run-off of DDT had been consumed by the fish, the fish had been eaten by the pelicans, whose metabolism had in turn been disturbed so that the lady pelican could no longer manufacture a sturdy shell," Albert told TV Guide in 1970.

After learning more about the effects of DDT, he said, "I stopped being a conservationist I became terrified. The more I studied, the more terrified I got."

Sharing his ecological concerns on the "Tonight" and "Today" shows, he became, in the words of a TV Guide reporter, "a kind of ecological Paul Revere." The TV appearances led to speaking engagement requests from high schools, universities and industrial and religious groups.

Albert formed a new company to produce films to aid in "international campaigns against environmental pollution."

Home base for the actor-activist was an unpretentious Spanish-style house on an acre of land in Pacific Palisades, where Albert turned the front yard into a cornfield. He also installed a giant greenhouse in the backyard, where he grew organic vegetables.

But a reporter learned better than to call Albert an ecologist.

"Ecologist, hell!," he scoffed in the 1970 TV Guide interview. "Too mild a word. Check the Department of Agriculture; 60% of the world is hungry already. With our soil impoverished, our air poisoned, our wildlife crippled by DDT, our rivers and lakes turning into giant cesspools, and mass starvation an apparent inevitability by 1976, I call myself a Human Survivalist!"

Albert, who in 1963 served as special world envoy for Meals for Millions — a philanthropic project providing nutritious, low-cost meals to the underprivileged around the world — helped launch the first Earth Day in 1970 and served as a special consultant at the World Hunger Conference in Rome in 1974.

He also served stints as director to the U.S. Commission on Refugees, national conservation chairman for the Boy Scouts of America and chairman of the Eddie Albert World Trees Foundation. He was a trustee of the National Recreation and Parks Assn. and a consumer advisory board member of the U.S. Department of Energy.

Margo, Albert's wife of 39 years, died in 1985.

In addition to his son, Albert is survived by a daughter, Maria Zucht; and two granddaughters. Services will be private.
Indiana 67, New York 59

NEW YORK -- Shooting poorly early in the game, the Indiana Fever started attacking the basket. The adjustment paid off.

Kelly Miller had 19 points to lead the Fever to a 67-59 victory against the New York Liberty on Thursday night, improving to 3-0 for the first time in franchise history.

``It was another good win for us, a good road win,'' Miller said. ``We did a good job executing plays down the stretch and making our shots.''

Indiana missed 13 of its first 18 shots over the first 10 minutes, before outscoring New York 13-4 in the final 5 to take a 30-29 lead at halftime.

``We picked it up towards the end of the first half and started taking the ball to the basket and stopped relying on long shots,'' Fever coach Brian Winters said. ``In the second half we played a much better game. We played the way we finished the first half, and that's the way we need to play.''

Deanna Jackson added 10 points for Indiana, which finished at 45 percent from the field (26-for-58) and outrebounded New York 32-22.

``We need to adjust,'' New York coach Pat Coyle said. ``This was the second game in the row we got outrebounded and that can't happen. It's all about putting a body on somebody and riding them out.''

Ann Wauters and Crystal Robinson scored 15 points apiece for the Liberty, who dropped to 0-2 for only the third time.

The teams traded baskets the first 4 minutes of the second half, before Indiana went on a 7-0 run to take the lead for good at 42-36 with 12:44 remaining.

``We gave them too many second shots and we didn't rebound the ball,'' New York's Vickie Johnson said.

Tan White's layup 5 1/2 minutes later gave the Fever a 52-43 lead. The Liberty then went on an 8-2 run, capped by Robinson's 3-pointer, to cut the deficit to three with 4:12 remaining.

Miller hit one of her three 3s nearly a minute later to push Indiana's lead back up to six, and New York didn't get closer than five the rest of the way. The Fever beat the Liberty for the seventh time in their last nine meetings.

Tamika Catchings, who was averaging 21.3 points and 8.5 rebounds in 11 previous games against New York, had just eight points and five rebounds.

The Liberty jumped out to an 18-11 lead as they made nine of their first 11 shots. They were just 4-of-14 the rest of the half and finished the game at 45 percent (21-for-47).

Jackson's 16-foot jumper capped a 9-0 run and gave Indiana its first lead at 26-25 with 2:09 left in the period.

Miller had all of her seven first-half points during the late first-half run.

``My teammates were getting me open looks and I was able to knock down some shots,'' Miller said. ``We started off slow, but in the end we did a good job.''

Robinson's rebound in the opening minute of the game was the 500th of her career, making her the seventh Liberty player to reach the mark.

Loree Moore, New York's first-round draft pick, had arthroscopic surgery on Tuesday to clean out scar tissue from her left knee. She is expected to miss six to eight weeks.

Sparks 84, Mystics 75

WASHINGTON -- Chamique Holdsclaw was more concerned with getting a road victory than a milestone point.

Holdsclaw scored 27 points, including the 3,000th of her WNBA career, and the Los Angeles Sparks overcame a WNBA-record 15 3-pointers by the Washington Mystics, beating Holdsclaw's former team 84-75 on Thursday night.

``Someone left a little note in my locker that said I got my 3,000th point,'' said Holdsclaw, who scored her first 2,960 points for the Mystics. ``I'm just glad we were able to redeem ourselves.

``I didn't want to look at the start of a season and be 0-2 on the road. We had to win this game tonight and I'm glad everybody chipped in and made it happen.''

Tamika Whitmore scored 21 points for the Sparks, who took the lead for good on two free throws by Christi Thomas with 5:22 left.

Charlotte Smith-Taylor made back-to-back 3-pointers to get the Mystics within 72-71 with 3:03 left, but that was as close as Washington got down the stretch.

Holdsclaw, who had 10 rebounds, made six free throws, and Whitmore added four points as the Sparks closed out the victory with a 12-4 run.

``I just wonder how I was here six seasons and they could never get any vets around me,'' Holdsclaw said of the Mystics. ``That's the thing. The acquisition of Charlotte Smith and some good young players is really exciting for them. Like I told Alana Beard, just get healthy and you guys are going to be really good.''

The Mystics played their third consecutive game without Beard, who is day to day with a sprained right ankle.

Los Angeles coach Henry Bibby said Holdsclaw willed the Sparks to victory while foul-troubled Lisa Leslie was limited to 21 minutes.

``She takes control of the game,'' he said of Holdsclaw. ``She's that good. She wants to win and she plays hard every time.''

``When we're in the half court, we've got to get the ball inside to Lisa,'' Holdsclaw said. ``But coach said we wanted to run and make it fun and exciting, so that's the time for me, Tamecka Dixon and Nikki Teasley to have our fun.''

The Mystics beat the previous league record of 14 3-pointers set by Minnesota at Utah in 1999 and matched by Sacramento at Minnesota in 2001.

Smith-Taylor led the Mystics with a season-high 17 points, including four 3-pointers. Chasity Melvin added a season-high 16 points and reserve Laurie Koehn 15 for Washington.

``I haven't seen a team shoot 3s the way they shoot 3s,'' Bibby said. ``I think it's in our favor to play some zone and make people shoot it outside, but my assistant coach, Shelley Patterson, she's been in the league five or six years and she said she's never seen any team shoot it like they shot it tonight.''

The Mystics tied their team record for 3-pointers made in a game with 10 in the first half. They shot 52.6 percent (10-for-19) from beyond the arc in the period and led 40-36 at the break.

Koehn hit the team record-setting 3-pointer for a 49-47 lead with 12:22 remaining.

``Holdsclaw had a tremendous game and if you have Lisa Leslie out of the game as long as she was out, you've got a chance to win this game,'' Mystics coach Richie Adubato said. ``We played a good game except for the last two and a half minutes.''

May 27, 2005

'Green Acres' Star Eddie Albert Dies at 99

LOS ANGELES - Eddie Albert, the actor best known as the constantly befuddled city slicker-turned-farmer in television's "Green Acres," has died. He was 99.

Albert died of pneumonia Thursday at his home in the Pacific Palisades area, in the presence of caregivers including his son Edward, who was holding his hand at the time.

"He died so beautifully and so gracefully that literally this morning I don't feel grief, I don't feel loss," Edward Albert told The Associated Press.

Albert achieved his greatest fame on "Green Acres" as Oliver Douglas, a New York lawyer who settles in a rural town with his glamorous wife, played by Eva Gabor, and finds himself perplexed by the antics of a host of eccentrics, including a pig named Arnold Ziffel.

He was nominated for Academy Awards as supporting actor in "Roman Holiday" (1953) and "The Heartbreak Kid" (1972).

The actor moved smoothly from the Broadway stage to movies to television. Besides the 1965-1971 run in "Green Acres," he costarred on TV with Robert Wagner in "Switch" from 1975 to 1978 and was a semi-regular on "Falcon Crest" in 1988.

He was a tireless conservationist, crusading for endangered species, healthful food, cleanup of Santa Monica Bay pollution and other causes.

Albert's mother was not married when he was born, in 1906. After marrying, she changed his birth certificate to read 1908, the younger Albert said.

Rarely the star of films, Albert often portrayed the wisecracking sidekick, fast-talking salesman or sympathetic father. His stardom came in television, especially with "Green Acres," in which, ironically, he played straight man. The show joined "The Beverly Hillbillies," "Petticoat Junction" and other high-rated CBS comedies of the 1960s and '70s.

"Some people think that because of the bucolic background `Green Acres' is corny," Albert told an interviewer in 1970. "But we get away with some of the most incredible lines on television."

His break in show business came during the '30s in the Broadway hit "Brother Rat," a comedy about life at Virginia Military Institute. Warner Bros. signed him to a contract and cast him in the 1938 film.

According to Hollywood gossip, he was caught in a dalliance with the wife of Jack L. Warner and the studio boss removed him from a film and allowed him to languish under contract.

The actor left Hollywood and appeared as a clown and trapeze artist in a one-ring Mexican circus. He escaped his studio contract by joining the Navy in World War II and served in combat in the South Pacific. He received a Bronze Star for his heroic rescue of wounded Marines at Tarawa, his son said.

Albert managed to rehabilitate his film career after the war, beginning with "Smash-up" with Susan Hayward in 1947.

Among his other films: "Carrie," "Oklahoma!" "The Teahouse of the August Moon," "The Sun Also Rises," "The Roots of Heaven," "The Longest Day," "Miracle of the White Stallions," "The Longest Yard" and "Escape to Witch Mountain."

Edward Albert Heimberger was born in Rock Island, Ill., grew up in Minneapolis and worked his way through two years at the University of Minnesota.

Amateur theater led to singing engagements in nightclubs and on radio. During that time he dropped his last name "because most people mispronounced it as 'Hamburger.'"

Moving to New York, Albert acted on radio and appeared in summer stock before he broke into Broadway and the movies.

"Green Acres" made Albert a rich man and allowed him to pursue his causes. He established Plaza de la Raza, a foundation in East Los Angeles that teaches arts to poor Hispanics.

He helped Dr. Albert Schweitzer combat famine in Africa. He traveled the world for UNICEF. Concerned about seeing fewer pelicans on beaches where he was jogging, he went with ecologists and his son on a trip to Anacapa Island.

"We discovered that in every nest all the eggs were crushed, and nobody knew why," the younger Albert said. "They took samples and tested them, and found DDT in all the eggs. ... An entire generation of species was being wiped out."

Albert began speaking about the harmful effects of the pesticide at universities around the country, and in 1972 the federal government banned DDT.

He continued acting into his 80s, often appearing in television movies.

"Acting was a tenth of his life. The majority of his life was committed to helping other people," said his son, also an actor. "This guy was, from the absolute depth of his soul, one of the true heroes of our world."

Edward Albert, 54, who became a prominent actor in "Butterflies Are Free," "40 Carats" and other films, said he put his career on hold for the past eight years to aid his father, who suffered from Alzheimer's disease.

On Friday, he remembered a moment several years ago in which the two sat in a garden together.

"I said to him 'You're my hero.' I saw him struggling to put together the words, and he looked at me and said: 'You're your hero's hero.' I'll take that to my ... grave."

Albert was married to the dancer-actress Margo for 40 years until her death in 1985. In addition to his son, Albert is survived by a daughter, Maria Albert Zucht, and two granddaughters.

A private funeral was planned.

May 25, 2005

Fever (2-0) at Liberty (0-1)
Game Info: 7:30 pm EDT Thu May 26, 2005

With Tamika Catchings leading the way, the Indiana Fever seek the first 3-0 start in their history when they visit the New York Liberty.
Indiana lost its final four games to miss the playoffs last season, but has opened 2-0 for the first time since 2002. That's due in large part to Catchings, who's averaging 18.5 points, 6.5 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 1.5 steals per game to lead the Fever.

Catchings scored 22 of her 28 points in the second half to lift Indiana to an 83-76 win over the Phoenix Mercury on Tuesday.

The fourth-year forward made a franchise-record 15 free throws -- 13 after halftime -- and tied the team mark for most points in a half. Catchings had just six points on 2-of-8 shooting before the break.

``When your shots aren't falling and you're a shooter, the best thing to do is get to the free-throw line,'' Catchings said. ``Once you get to the line a couple of times, you get used to shooting it.''

Catchings, who finished with nine rebounds, hit three free throws in the final 18.8 seconds.

``One thing my dad always told me is that the last three minutes need to be your time to shine,'' Catchings said.

Natalie Williams added 12 points, and Kelly Schumacher and Jurgita Streimikyte each scored 10 for the Fever. Williams and Streimikyte are tied for second on the team with 10.0 points per game.

New York lost its opener 78-71 to the Detroit Shock on Sunday.

Becky Hammon had 15 of her 24 points in the second half, but New York shot 31 percent from the field. Vickie Johnson added 16 points and Ann Wauters had 14 for the Liberty.

Hammon's jumper made it 70-68 with 1:02 remaining, but the Liberty never got any closer. New York went nearly five minutes without scoring until Johnson made two free throws with 8:49 left.

``We dug ourselves a hole,'' Hammon said. ``We had to fight, scratch and claw just to get back into it. We just didn't shoot the ball well.''

The Liberty shot 9-of-34 in the first half, including 2-of-12 from 3-point range, and were outscored 18-8 in the paint.

Crystal Robinson was held scoreless and was 0-for-10 for the game.

Robinson has 499 career rebounds, and is looking to become the seventh player in Liberty history to reach the 500 mark.
Indiana 83, Phoenix 76

Tamika Catchings scored 22 of her 28 points in the second half to lead the Indiana Fever to an 83-76 win over the Phoenix Mercury on Tuesday night.

Catchings made a franchise-record 15 free throws -- 13 after halftime -- and tied the franchise record for most points in a half. Catchings had just six points on 2-of-8 shooting before the break.

``When your shots aren't falling and you're a shooter, the best thing to do is get to the free throw line,'' Catchings said. ``Once you get to the line a couple of times, you get used to shooting it.''

Natalie Williams added 12 points, and Kelly Schumacher and Jurgita Streimikyte each scored 10 for the Fever. Indiana held off a late Phoenix rally, allowing an 11-point lead shrink to one with 1:40 left.

Diana Taurasi had 24 points and five assists, Plenette Pierson had 15 points and Anna DeForge added 14 for the Mercury.

Phoenix used a 6-0 run with under 3 minutes left to cut Indiana's lead to 69-68. A pair of free throws by Catchings and a basket by Streimikyte pushed the lead to 73-68 with 1 minute left.

Catchings, who had nine rebounds, added three free throws in the final 18.8 seconds.

``One thing my dad always told me is that the last three minutes need to be your time to shine,'' Catchings said.

Indiana used a 9-0 first-half run to lead 28-19 with just under 5 minutes left. The Mercury closed out the half with an 11-5 run to trail 33-30 at the break.

After Phoenix scored to start the second half, the Fever scored 11 of the next 12 points to take a 44-33 lead. Catchings scored five points and Williams had four during the run.

``Tamika just stepped up. She's a star player,'' Phoenix coach Carrie Graf said. ``We held her in the first half, but she's a star player.''

May 22, 2005

Time Compiles List of 100 Greatest Films

NEW YORK - A list of the greatest films of all time without "North by Northwest?" No "Annie Hall," "Bicycle Thief" or "Apocalypse Now"? Take a deep breath and relax. This is supposed to be fun.

The movie critics for Time magazine, Richard Schickel and Richard Corliss, have compiled an unranked list of the 100 greatest films. It was posted Sunday on Included are traditionally acclaimed flicks like "Lawrence of Arabia," "Casablanca" and "Citizen Kane," as well as more atypical choices like "Finding Nemo," "Star Wars" and the 2002 Brazilian gang story, "City of God."

Disagree? Schickel says that's the idea.

"100 lists are fun to discuss, fun to argue over," Schickel told The Associated Press. "I don't think anybody should say, `That's it, that's the final 100! No disputing this for the rest of eternity!' You know, stuff changes. Life changes. You change."

That perspective is even more difficult for contemporary movies, says the critic who has also produced many documentaries and led the acclaimed reconstruction of Samuel Fuller's 1980 war pic, "The Big Red One." Recent films on the list include Pedro Almodovar's "Talk to Her," the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy and, of course, "Pulp Fiction."

Schickel acknowledges some regret for a few older reviews of his — like not trumpeting "Bonnie and Clyde" more or failing to immediately recognize "Chinatown" as "close to a perfect movie." All the original reviews from Time will be linked on the subscription Web site — but perusing old write-ups can be a cringing experience for a critic.

Though it was before Schickel's time, the original 1942 review of "Casablanca," for example, read, "Nothing short of an invasion could add much to `Casablanca.'"

"If you're involved with movies, they are a living organism in your memory," Schickel says. "It's like some creature in a sci-fi movie that keeps shape-shifting."

The most popular director turned out to be Martin Scorsese, who has three films on the list. Scorsese's frequent actor of choice, Robert De Niro, leads actors with five.

Since Schickel and Corliss also have divergent tastes, much of the finalized list is one of compromise.

"Most 100 lists are the product of a single sensibility and this is a compromised list because his sensibility and mine, I think, agreed between 40 percent and 50 percent of the time ... and then it gets to a wrangle."

In Monday's issue of the magazine, the two critics also name the best film from each decade since Time began: "Metropolis" (1927), "Dodsworth" (1936), "Citizen Kane" (1941), "Ikiru" (1952), "Persona" (1966), "Chinatown" (1974), "Decalogue" (1988), "Pulp Fiction" (1994) and "Talk to Her" (2002).

But Schickel still says to reserve any great reverence for the result of their toil.

"In a way this is supposed to be fun. ... The notion that any kind of movie reviewing or movie commentary is an opinion handed down from on high by somebody in judicial robes is nonsensical. They're all kind of first opinions and depends on, I don't know, what you ate for breakfast that morning."


On the Net:
Reclusive 'Mockingbird' Author Appears

LOS ANGELES - Harper Lee, who has been dodging publicity for decades since she published her only book, "To Kill a Mockingbird," made a rare step into the limelight to be honored by the Los Angeles Public Library.

Lee, 79, stopped giving interviews a few years after she won the Pulitzer Prize for her 1960 coming-of-age book exploring racial prejudice in the South. She has turned down most request for appearances.

But she couldn't refuse an invitation from Veronique Peck, the widow of actor Gregory Peck, who won an Oscar for his starring role as lawyer Atticus Finch in the 1962 film version of the book and became a lifelong friend with Lee.

"Mockingbird" co-star Brock Peters, who played the black man falsely accused of rape in the film, presented the award to Lee.

After Veronique Peck whispered in her ear, Lee gave her only remarks of the evening: "I'll say it again. Thank you all from the bottom of my heart."

Veronique Peck said Lee is "like a national treasure."

"She's someone who has made a difference with this book," she said. "All the kids in the United States read this book and see the film in the seventh and eighth grades and write papers and essays. My husband used to get thousands and thousands of letters from teachers who would send them to him."

She said Atticus Finch was her husband's "favorite role, and he felt that in his professional life, it was probably the best performance he ever gave."

The awards dinner Thursday drew more than 600 supporters and raised $700,000 for computers, computer training and literacy programs.

Actress Jones Receives Honorary Degree

WASHINGTON, Pa. - Shirley Jones is finally getting the college degree that was delayed by a 50-plus-year career on Broadway, in movies and portraying the rock 'n' roll mom to television's Partridge Family.

Jones, 71, received an honorary degree at Washington & Jefferson College's graduation ceremony Saturday.

Jones was raised in Smithton, about 25 miles southeast of Pittsburgh. After graduating from high school, Jones planned to study veterinary medicine — after she returned from a summer trip to New York City. But Jones tried out for the chorus of "South Pacific" and Rogers and Hammerstein cast her in the Broadway production.

"I wanted to become a veterinarian. As God would have it, I was given another path to follow," Jones said. "But I most miss not necessarily getting the degree, but the broad experiences you can only get in college."

Besides starring on Broadway, Jones won the Best Supporting Actress Academy Award in 1961 for her role as a prostitute in "Elmer Gantry." She gained a new generation of fans playing the role of Shirley Partridge alongside her real-life stepson, David Cassidy, in TV's "Partridge Family."

'Star Wars' Earns Record-Breaking $158.5M

LOS ANGELES - Moviegoers have turned out in full force for the final chapter of the "Star Wars" saga, which took in $158.5 million since its opening to shatter three-day and four-day box office records.

"Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith" grossed $124.7 million from Thursday to Saturday, according to studio estimates Sunday. That's higher than the three-day record set by the first "Spider-Man," which took in $114.8 million in May 2002 — though "Star Wars" had a lower Friday-Sunday take ($108.5 million) than the Tobey Maguire film.

"Revenge of the Sith" rang in a whopping $50 million on its opening Thursday, a single-day record boosted by eagerly anticipated midnight showings, and its total receipts since then beat the four-day $134.3 million opening of 2003's "The Matrix Reloaded." The George Lucas film has also grossed $144.7 million overseas for a total of $303 million worldwide.

"The reaction to the movie is absolutely spectacular," said Bruce Snyder, president of domestic distribution at Twentieth Century Fox.

Last weekend's box office champ, "Monster-in-Law," which marked Jane Fonda's return to the big screen as Jennifer Lopez's villainous prospective mother-in-law, slipped to a distant second with $14.4 million, a 38 percent drop. The Will Ferrell soccer comedy "Kicking & Screaming" took in $10.5 million to finish third.

Theater owners, studios and marketing partners were pleased to see "Star Wars" jump-start the summer movie season.

"It's a very strong start to what will hopefully be a very strong summer," said Paul Dergarabedian, president of box office tracker Exhibitor Relations.

The Adam Sandler-Chris Rock remake of "The Longest Yard" and the animated zoo tale "Madagascar" open in wide release during Memorial Day weekend, traditionally one of the busiest movie viewing times of the year.

But "Star Wars" — which has sold an average of eight tickets per second online at — could remain at the top of the box office despite the competition.

"I think we have a shot to be No. 1 next week even with two giant pictures coming out," Snyder said.

The third and final installment in the "Star Wars" prequel trilogy chronicles the transformation of the heroic Jedi Knight Anakin Skywalker into the villainous Darth Vader. Studio exit surveys showed the audience — usually dominated by men for sci-fi films — was 58 percent male and 42 percent female, with nearly half the viewers under age 25, Snyder said.

"Revenge of the Sith" is the first "Star Wars" film to earn a PG-13 rating. The first five films were rated PG. Considered by critics to be the most entertaining of the prequel trilogy, it easily outperformed "Episode I — The Phantom Menace" and "Episode II — Attack of the Clones," which grossed $64.8 million and $80 million, respectively, in their opening weekends.

Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at North American theaters, according to Exhibitor Relations Co. Inc. Final figures will be released Monday.

1. "Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith," $108.5 million

2. "Monster-in-Law," $14.4 million

3. "Kicking & Screaming," $10.5 million

4. "Crash," $5.5 million

5. "Unleashed," $3.8 million

6. "Kingdom of Heaven," $3.4 million

7. "House of Wax," $3.2 million

8. "The Interpreter," $2.8 million

9. "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy," $2 million

10. "Mindhunters," $909,049

May 21, 2005

Voice of Fred Flintstone Dies at 85

LOS ANGELES - Henry Corden, the voice of cartoon caveman Fred Flintstone's "Yabba-dabba-doo!" for more than two decades, has died. He was 85.

Corden died of emphysema Thursday night at AMI Encino Hospital, his longtime agent Don Pitts said Friday. Corden's wife of nine years, Angelina, was with him at the time.

He took over as the lovable loudmouth Fred Flintstone when original voice Alan Reed died in 1977. Reed had been doing Flintstone since the character debuted in 1960.

Born in Montreal, Corden moved to New York as a child and arrived in Hollywood in the 1940s. His first acting role was in the 1947 film "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty." Known for playing villains, he found small parts in movies, including 1952's "The Black Castle" and "The Ten Commandments" in 1956.

"As Henry said, he always played the cold-blooded creeps," Pitts said.

Corden moved into voice acting in the 1960s, and deployed his dialect skills in bit parts for Hanna-Barbera, including "Jonny Quest," "Josey and the Pussycats" and "The New Tom & Jerry Show."

Since "The Flintstones" echoed "The Honeymooners," Corden tweaked his role to approximate Jackie Gleason's Ralph Kramden character, Pitts said.

Corden also contributed to "The Jetsons," "Scooby-Doo" and "The Smurfs."

Corden, who lived in Encino, had been working until his health suffered about three months ago. He can most recently be heard on ubiquitous cereal commercials yelling "Barney, my Pebbles!"

Besides his wife, Corden is survived by five children and five grandchildren. A private memorial "party" is planned, Pitts said.

May 18, 2005

'The Riddler' Frank Gorshin Dies at 72

BURBANK, Calif. - Frank Gorshin, the impressionist with 100 faces best known for his Emmy-nominated role as the Riddler on the "Batman" TV series, has died. He was 72.

Gorshin's wife of 48 years, Christina, was at his side when he died Tuesday at Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center, his agent and longtime friend, Fred Wostbrock, said Wednesday.

"He put up a valiant fight with lung cancer, emphysema and pneumonia," Mrs. Gorshin said in a statement.

Despite dozens of TV and movie credits, Gorshin will be forever remembered for his role as the Riddler, Adam West's villainous foil in the question mark-pocked green suit and bowler hat on "Batman" from 1966 to 1969.

The Riddler's high-pitched laugh was based on his own, Gorshin told AP Radio in 1997. "I fooled around with all kinds of different laughs and then I found out that when I do laugh I get this high-pitched laugh and I thought, 'This is what I'm going to use.'"

"It really was a catalyst for me," Gorshin recalled in a 2002 Associated Press interview. "I was nobody. I had done some guest shots here and there. But after I did that, I became a headliner in Vegas, so I can't put it down."

West said the death of his longtime friend was a big loss.

"Frank will be missed," West said in a statement. "He was a friend and fascinating character."

In 2002, Gorshin portrayed George Burns on Broadway in the one-man show "Say Goodnight Gracie." He used only a little makeup and no prosthetics.

"I don't know how to explain it. It just comes," he said. "I wish I could say, `This is step A, B and C.' But I can't do that. I do it, you know. The ironic thing is I've done impressions all my life — I never did George Burns."

Gorshin's final performance will be broadcast on Thursday's CBS series "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation."

Born in Pittsburgh, Gorshin broke into show business in New York. He did more than 40 impressions, including Al Jolson, Kirk Douglas, Bobby Darin, Dean Martin and James Cagney.

Later, he took his impressions to "The Ed Sullivan Show" on a memorable evening — the same night the Beatles were featured.

When asked by the AP how it felt to be the unlucky performer following the Beatles, he said, "I looked out the window of my dressing room and said, 'Look at all the kids that came to see me!'"

He also did impressions in Las Vegas showrooms, opening for Darin and paving the way for other impressionists like Rich Little. Sammy Davis Jr. said it was Gorshin who taught him to do impressions, Wostbrock said.

"He said you had to look like them and walk like them. Once you get that down, the voice comes easy," he said.

Gorshin's movie roles included "Bells are Ringing" (1960) with his idol Dean Martin and a batch of fun B-movies such as "Hot Rod Girl" (1956), "Dragstrip Girl" (1957) and "Invasion of the Saucer Men" (1957).

"He was fun, fascinating, wild and always a class act," Wostbrock said. "Here's a guy who always wore great clothes, stood up when a woman walked into the room — he was a gentleman. We did all our deals with a handshake. There was never a signed contract."

His other TV credits included roles on "General Hospital, "The Edge of Night" and "The Munsters" as well as guest appearances on "Donny & Marie," "The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson," "Late Night with Conan O'Brien," "Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman," "Murder, She Wrote," "The Fall Guy," "Buck Rogers in the 25th Century," "Wonder Woman," "Charlie's Angels" and "Police Woman."

Wostbrock said the funeral would be private and Gorshin would be buried in the family plot in Pittsburgh.

'Riddler' actor Frank Gorshin dead at 72

LOS ANGELES - Actor and master impressionist Frank Gorshin, best known for his maniacally menacing turn as the Riddler on the 1960s TV series "Batman," has died at age 72, his agent said.

The veteran entertainer, diagnosed with lung cancer in 2003 while starring in a one-man Broadway show as comic legend George Burns, died on Tuesday at a hospital in Burbank, California, his agent and longtime friend Fred Wostbrock told Reuters.

Gorshin also had been suffering from emphysema and pneumonia, Wostbrock said.

His wife of 48 years, Christina, was with him at the end, the agent said.

Gorshin's death came two days before CBS was set to broadcast what became his final performance, a guest appearance on the season finale of the hit show "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation."

Gorshin, a Pittsburgh native, got his start in television and film in the 1950s and '60s, often playing bad guys. But he soon gained attention as a gifted impressionist, doing comic imitations of such stars as Kirk Douglas, Marlon Brando and Burt Lancaster on the nightclub and TV variety show circuit.

One of his first big appearances, on "The Ed Sullivan Show" in 1964, happened to coincide with the Beatles' famed first performance on that program.

But Gorshin's biggest break came in 1966 when he was cast in the recurring role of the Riddler, the cackling, fiendish arch enemy of Batman on the ABC series based on the popular comic book hero.

Gorshin made a dozen appearances as the Riddler on "Batman," earning an Emmy nomination for his work, and donned his green question mark-patterned suit again for a big-screen movie based on the series.

Fellow actor Adam West, who starred as the title character on "Batman," issued a statement saying his old on-screen foil "will be missed. ... Frank made me laugh. He was a friend and a fascinating character."

Looking back on his career in a 1996 Entertainment Weekly interview, Gorshin voiced mixed feelings on his Riddler role.

"It afforded me a lot of things in the way of financial success and recognition," he said. "But being known as the Riddler all this time, there's always that feeling: 'Gee, I wish there was something else they would recognize me for."'

Gorshin also is remembered by "Star Trek" fans for his memorable guest performance on that show as Commissioner Bele, a half-black, half-white alien who appeared in a favorite episode "Let That Be Your Last Battlefield," a parable on race relations.

Decades later, Gorshin portrayed the late George Burns -- a star he had never before included in his repertoire of impressions -- in the Tony-nominated Broadway show "Say Goodnight, Gracie,"

Wostbrock said it was during that show's run that Gorshin was diagnosed with cancer, but he remained with the production while undergoing chemotherapy and radiation treatments, never missing a performance.

May 10, 2005

Sparks 77, Mystics 67

WASHINGTON -- Chamique Holdsclaw opened her WNBA preseason against her former team, scoring 15 points to help the Los Angeles Sparks to a 77-67 exhibition victory over the Washington Mystics on Tuesday night at the MCI Center.

Doneeka Hodges led the Sparks with 16 points on 7-for-9 shooting. Tamika Whitmore added 15 points.

Holdsclaw, a three-time WNBA All-Star, left the Mystics midway through last season for undisclosed medical reasons. She started 22 of Washington's first 23 games, averaging a team-leading 19 points and 8.3 rebounds.

After the season, Holdsclaw revealed that she had been battling depression. She played in Italy before the Mystics traded her to the Sparks in March for DeLisha Milton-Jones and a first-round draft pick.

Charlotte Smith-Taylor and Tamicha Jackson each scored 12 points for the Mystics. Holdsclaw missed five of her first six shots but made a turnaround jumper that gave the Sparks a 53-41 lead with 13:33 left.

Monarchs 103, China 79

SACRAMENTO, California -- Cristi Greenwalt led five players in double figures with 17 points Friday, taking the WNBA's Sacramento Monarchs to a lopsided 103-79 victory over China.

It was the Chinese national women's team's only preseason game against a WNBA team. China scrimmaged against Seattle earlier this week and is scheduled to have another scrimmage May 14 at San Antonio.

Miao Lijie and Nicole Powell each scored 12 points for the Monarchs, who led 59-37 in the first half. Kara Lawson and Erin Buescher had 11 points apiece.

Ji Xiao scored 22 points for China. Zhang Xiaoni scored 13 points before fouling out early in the second half and Song Liwei added 10 points.

Greenwalt made all five of her shots and had 10 first-half points. Miao had nine points for Sacramento, which used an 8-0 run to take a 21-12 at the 13:18 mark of the opening half, when it shot 59 percent.

It was a reunion of sorts for Sacramento players Sui Feifei and Miao. Sui led the Chinese Olympic team in scoring during the 2004 Games in Athens and Miao was the second-highest scorer for that team.

They are trying to become the second and third Chinese players to make a WNBA team. Zheng Haixia played for the Los Angeles Sparks during the 1997-98 seasons.
Warhol's 'Liz' sells for $12.6 million at Sotheby's

NEW YORK - Contemporary and post-war art sold respectably if not spectacularly at Sotheby's on Tuesday led by "Liz," Andy Warhol's portrait of actress Elizabeth Taylor, which fetched $12,616,000.

The vibrant Warhol silkscreen from 1963 was easily the top lot of the auction which took in just over $68 million, or $5 million above the low pre-sale estimate.

Sixty lots of the 73 on offer found buyers and records were set for 10 artists. They included Chuck Close whose large-scale portrait "John" sold for $4,832,000 including Sotheby's commission. The work easily eclipsed the old mark of $2.8 million but fell short of its $5 million low estimate.

While the salesroom was packed, the auction was not characterized by the kind of dramatic bidding seen at recent contemporary and post-war sales at Sotheby's and rival Christie's.

Sotheby's officials said afterward they had "a wonderful sale" with "incredibly strong" results.

Tobias Meyer, Sotheby's head of contemporary art and the evening's auctioneer, noted that Warhol's $9 million to $12 million estimate had been considered aggressive. But he said the figure was "completely justified in the market" as bidders drove the price above $12 million. The buyer was English collector Laurence Graff, a London-based jeweler.

Strong prices were also achieved by a group of Roy Lichtenstein works being sold by the estate of slain designer Gianni Versace. Led by "Blue Nude, which soared to $5,280,000, the five works took in some $8.5 million.

Other expected highlights did not fare as well. Willem de Kooning's large-scale sculpture "Seated woman," with a low estimate of $2.5 million, failed to sell. And Warhol's "Camouflage," with a low estimate of $1.5 million, couldn't manage $1 million.

The spring auctions wrap up on Wednesday at Christie's.

May 03, 2005

New stories unmask Zorro's abiding allure

Zorro, the fictional 19th-century masked bandit famous for fighting social injustice and for slashing a "Z" with his sword, is still making his mark on popular culture.

Out this week is Zorro (HarperCollins, $25.95) by acclaimed author Isabel Allende. More books, a movie, toys, games, comics and even a musical also are planned.

John Gertz, president of Zorro Productions, which owns the rights to the character, says he's not surprised by the latest surge in popularity.

"Zorro is a superhero, in a way, but he's extremely human," Gertz says. "He has no super powers. He is Everyman made larger without having been bitten by a spider."

Allende, whose novel imagines the childhood of Don Diego de la Vega and how he became Zorro, is a huge fan. "I am totally in love with Zorro," she says. "I would like to be him. He's romantic, he's athletic, he fights for justice."

Zorro, which is the Spanish word for fox, was created in 1919 by pulp-fiction writer Johnston McCulley, who went on to write 75 novels and short stories about the black-caped hero. On screen, Zorro has been portrayed by the likes of Douglas Fairbanks (in a 1920 silent film), Tyrone Power, Alain Delon and, most recently, Antonio Banderas.

But Zorro gained perhaps his greatest popularity in a 1950s TV series produced by Walt Disney and starring Guy Williams. "Out of the night, when the full moon is bright, comes the horseman known as Zorro" began the then-famous theme song.

On the way:

• A three-part Zorro comics series, Scars, from Papercutz, will come out in May, June and July; a graphic novel version is scheduled for release in October.

The Mark of Zorro, a novel by McCulley, will be reissued by Penguin in August.

The Zorro Television Companion: A Critical Appreciation, by Gerry Dooley, tentatively is set for August publication by McFarland and Co.

• Play sets and action figures, including Zorro and his horse, Tornado, will be in stores in September.

The Legend of Zorro, the film sequel to The Mask of Zorro, starring Banderas and Catherine Zeta-Jones, is due in October.

• Sony Pictures Digital, which has brought other film titles to the mobile gaming market, including Spider-Man and Charlie's Angels, will offer games, wallpaper and ring tones in the fall.

Young Zorro, a children's novel by Jan Adkins, is due from HarperCollins in January.

Zorro, the Musical tentatively is scheduled to premiere in London's West End in February 2006. It will feature original music by the Gypsy Kings.

Zorro meets Isabel Allende

Isabel Allende's interesting career has been marked by three distinct types of fiction. First. there was what used to be called magical realism, as in The House of the Spirits (1985), in which she was roughly to Gabriel Garcia Marquez what Carson McCullers was to William Faulkner. Second came historical fiction, represented by the companion novels Daughters of Fortune (1999) and Portrait in Sepia (2001). Third was smart kid's lit, like last year's Kingdom of The Golden Dragon. All three paths converge in her new Zorro, one of those rare and perfect matches of subject and author.

The character of Zorro -- "fox" in Spanish -- originated not in Mexico or Spain but in the mind of a New York journalist and pulp writer named Johnston McCulley. McCulley moved to southern California in 1908 and picked up something of the color and lore of the provincial times, though nothing at all of its history. No one is sure exactly who the inspirations were for Zorro, though the Baroness Emmuska Orezy's The Scarlet Pimpernel, the masked Englishman who battled French revolutionary fanatics, was a likely candidate. But the Scarlet Pimpernel fought for the aristocracy while Zorro fought against the aristocracy for the common man. He was an outlaw and almost certainly was modeled, at least in part, on the legendary California bandit Joaquin Murieta, whose head was said to be preserved in a jar for more than half a century until it vanished in the San Francisco earthquake of 1906. (The screenplay to the 1998 film "The Mask of Zorro" ingeniously turns Zorro into the avenging brother of Joaquin Murieta.)

The Zorro we have come to know and love wasn't a product so much of birth as evolution. McCulley's first Zorro, written for a pulp adventure magazine, was simply a Spanish gentleman in a mask fighting for the rights of the downtrodden Mexican peasants and Indians. In 1920, Douglas Fairbanks Jr. changed all that, turning him into a black-suited daredevil in "The Mark of Zorro." After the success of Fairbanks' film, McCulley revived his hero in Fairbanks' image, one that has been embellished by numerous actors from Tyrone Power to Guy Williams (in the late '50s Walt Disney TV series) and most recently and successfully by Antonio Banderas -- amazingly, the first Hispanic actor ever to play the role, though several Hispanics have been cast as the villains. Along the way, Zorro was the inspiration for dozens of crime fighters. (Bob Kane, Batman's creator, paid homage to him by having Bruce Wayne's parents murdered while coming from a theater where "The Mark of Zorro" was playing.)

Allende has reached into this cultural compost heap of pulp fiction, movies and television and forged a character with a soul and a heritage. Allende (born in Peru, raised in Chile, and in recent years a resident of California) has rooted her story in a re-creation of Latin California and remade Diego de la Vega into the first real All-American hero.

Diego is the result of a volatile union between a liberal Spanish aristocrat and an enigmatic Shoshone Indian who, for love's sake, "tried to renounce her origins and become a Spanish lady" but who "never stopped dreaming in her own language." Diego is, literally, a noble savage, one that Rousseau could not have anticipated, imbued with a romanticist's sense of justice. "Do you truly believe that life is fair, Senor de la Vega?" he is asked. No, is his reply, "but I plan to do everything in my power to make it so."

This Zorro does not spring fully formed like Athena from the head of Zeus. He stumbles through much of his early life, losing his first love and even an occasional duel; the novel could easily have been titled Becoming Zorro.

Sent to Spain for an education (which includes exposure to the gruesome war drawings of "maestro Goya"), Diego's innate social consciousness is nourished by contact with early 19th century radicalism. Initiated into the art of the saber by a Zen-like Jewish master, he learns acrobatic skills and parlor magic from performing gypsies -- his costume is the all-black outfit, replete with cape and caballero hat.

Fleeing the tyranny of French-occupied Spain, Diego sails for the New World, is abducted near New Orleans by the pirate Jean Lafitte, and returns to Old California to introduce the natives to Western enlightenment and the Spanish dons to Indian-style justice.

Along the way, Allende winks at the reader, weaving bits of actual history with characters and scenes from Zorro movies (Her Diego stuns a foe by slicing a candle in two without disturbing the flame, as Tyrone Power did to Basil Rathbone in "The Mark of Zorro").

A picaresque novel with postmodern flourishes -- the identity of the story's narrator is not revealed until the story's postscript, if you want to cheat -- the sinfully entertaining Zorro is serious fiction masked as a swashbuckler. And with luck Allende can squeeze as many sequels out of the character as Hollywood has.