December 20, 2007

(11) Pittsburgh 65, (6) Duke 64, OT

NEW YORK -- Levance Fields hit a 3-pointer with 4.7 seconds left in overtime to give No. 11 Pittsburgh a 65-64 victory over No. 6 Duke in a matchup of unbeatens Thursday night.

Duke's Jon Scheyer took a running 3 and was able to grab the rebound and get off a final shot but it was another miss for the Blue Devils (10-1).

Fields, who finished with 21 points for the Panthers (11-0), hit all three of Pittsburgh's 3-pointers in the game. The second one he made was part of a 12-0 run that gave the Panthers a 50-49 lead with 5:27 to play in regulation, their first since 2-0.

Duke had the final two shots of regulation, too.

Gerald Henderson of Duke tied the game at 58 on a jumper with 56 seconds left in regulation.

Pitt's Michael Cook missed a 3 with 23 seconds left and the Blue Devils worked for a last shot, Henderson's driving miss in the lane, but Kyle Singler got the rebound and his putback went off the rim.

Sam Young had 17 points for Pittsburgh, while freshman DeJuan Blair had 15 points and 20 rebounds and his energy on the boards was a big key for the Panthers in their comeback from a 13-point deficit four minutes into the second half.

Singler and Henderson both had 17 points for Duke, while DeMarcus Nelson added 14.

Mike Cook, a senior who has made 48 consecutive starts at forward for Pitt, hurt his left leg a minute into the overtime. He remained on the court for several minutes then was helped to the locker room without the leg ever touching the ground. He didn't return.

The loss snapped Duke's 36-game winning streak in December. The Blue Devils' last loss in the 12th month was 84-83 to Stanford on Dec. 21, 2000.

Both teams were used to playing in Madison Square Garden. Pitt is 18-8 there since 2001-02 and Duke is 15-6 in the Garden under coach Mike Krzyzewski and the Blue Devils had won their last seven in the building.

It looked like Duke's winning streaks in the month and New York City would remain intact as the Blue Devils took a 16-point lead in the first half and were still up 39-26 with 16:31 left in regulation.

But Pittsburgh picked up its rebounding and defense in the second half and overtime and cut back on the turnovers. After being even on the boards at 19 at halftime, the Panthers finished with a 53-39 rebound advantage and the 6-foot-7, 265-pound Blair was the big difference.

Duke went 4:48 without scoring in the second, part of a 6:31 span when the Blue Devils didn't have a field goal. Their spread offense wasn't getting the same shots it did in the first half and the Blue Devils were missing 3s, going 1-for-9 from behind the arc in the final 25 minutes.

Pitt took advantage to get back in the game and Blair had five points in the 12-0 run that got the Panthers the lead for the first time since the opening minutes.

The Panthers finished with 22 turnovers after having 13 in the first half.

Duke took the big lead in the first half with defense and a 10-0 run.

Pittsburgh went 11 consecutive possessions without scoring, the first two ended with missed shots, the next with two missed free throws. The next seven all ended with turnovers by the Panthers, mistakes ranging from bad passes in the open court to very bad passes in a double-team to two offensive fouls, both drawn by Lance Thomas.

A jumper in the lane by Fields ended the run and made it 24-15 with 4:59 left in the half.

But the Blue Devils went on another run, this one 7-0 and Taylor King's 3-pointer capped it and Duke was up 31-5 with 3:53 left.

Pitt coach Jamie Dixon called a 30-second timeout, the third one he called in a 3:24 span hoping to keep Duke within striking distance. The Panthers closed within 34-22 at halftime.

November 13, 2007

With a Song in My Heart available on DVD

November 12, 2007

Dark Victory by Ed Sikov

My Review of The Making of Hollywood Stars

Tommy Lightfoot Garrett has written another winner. He dishes the dirt with the best of them, but always has a kind word to say about his subjects, which is a hard-to-find commodity in celeb-related books these days.

If you're into today's stars, (with a few classics thrown in for good measure), buy this book. You won't be sorry.

The Making of Hollywood Stars

Director Delbert Mann dies in LA

LOS ANGELES - Delbert Mann, who transformed Paddy Chayefsky's classic teleplays "Marty" and "The Bachelor Party" into big-screen triumphs and helped bring TV techniques to the film world, died Sunday. He was 87.

Mann died of pneumonia at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, his son Fred Mann said Monday.

Mann's 1955 feature version of "Marty" won four Oscars: best picture and director, best actor for Ernest Borgnine and best screenplay for Chayefsky. The low-budget film with mostly little-known actors told the stark, poignant story of Borgnine's 34-year-old Brooklyn butcher who felt he was too ugly to find love. His life is changed when he meets an equally shy but sweet woman played by Betsy Blair.

"I knew we had a good story because I had already done it on television," Mann once told The Associated Press. "But I certainly never expected it to be the hit that it turned out to be."

Using techniques he brought from television, Mann took a mere 16 days to shoot the film version of "Marty," plus an additional three days for retakes. This compared with 45 days for typical features of that time, with epic pictures running far beyond that.

He followed "Marty" with 1957's "The Bachelor Party." They were some of the first examples of television's emerging role in Hollywood — not necessarily as a rival medium, but as a synergistic one.

The two teleplays were first seen in 1953 on "Philco-Goodyear Playhouse," considered one of the best dramatic anthology series of television's Golden Age. Rod Steiger played the title role in the television "Marty," while the woman he befriends was played by Nancy Marchand.

In all, Mann and famed producer Fred Coe collaborated on more than 100 of the live Sunday night "Playhouse" productions.

Mann's other feature credits include "Desire Under the Elms" (1957), "Separate Tables" (1958), "Middle of the Night" (1959), "The Dark at the Top of the Stairs" (1960), "The Outsider" (1961), "That Touch of Mink" (1962), "A Gathering of Eagles" (1963), "Dear Heart" (1964), "Fitzwilly" (1967), "Kidnapped" (1971), "Night Crossing" (1982) and "Bronte" (1983).

Despite his success with feature films, Mann longed for his television roots and in the late 1960s returned to the medium after a lengthy absence.

"I missed the excitement and concentration that live TV gave us in the old days," Mann said at the time. "I was able to achieve the artistic freedom I can't get in films."

Mann directed a string of prestigious prime-time productions, including "Heidi" (1968), "David Copperfield" (1970), "Jane Eyre" (1971), "The Man Without a Country" (1973), "All Quiet on the Western Front" (1979) and "The Last Days of Patton" (1986).

Through no fault of her own, "Heidi" enraged professional football fans across America on Nov. 15, 1968, when NBC decided to cut away from the dramatic final minutes of a New York Jets-Oakland Raiders game to begin the television movie at its scheduled time.

A native of Lawrence, Kan., Mann received his first dramatic training at Vanderbilt University, graduating in 1941. He later attended Yale's School of Drama after a stint as a bomber pilot in World War II.

Mann went on to take a directing job at the Town Theatre, a community playhouse in Columbia, S.C., succeeding Coe, who became Mann's mentor. Mann was affiliated with the Town from 1947 to 1949, before moving to New York to work with Coe in television.

Mann's wife, Ann Caroline, died in 2001. In addition to Fred Mann, he is survived by sons David and Steven. His daughter, Susan, died in an automobile accident in 1976.

November 06, 2007

Singing Osmond family patriarch dead at 90

LOS ANGELES - George Osmond, father and early manager of the singing siblings who shot to the top of the charts with "One Bad Apple" in the early 1970s, has died at age 90, a family spokesman said on Tuesday.

The Osmond family patriarch, who helped launch the musical careers of six of his eight sons, including Donny, and his only daughter, Marie, died of natural causes on Monday at an assisted-living center in Provo, Utah, said spokesman Kevin Sasaki.

The Wyoming-born George Osmond kicked off the family entertainment business by teaching barbershop-quartet harmony to four of his sons -- Alan, Wayne, Merrill and Jay -- who began singing together at church functions, family gatherings and events in Ogden, Utah.

On a trip to Los Angeles in the early 1960s, the boys landed a job as Disneyland performers, leading to a TV debut on "The Andy Williams Show." Younger brother Donny officially joined the group a year later and ultimately became its focal point.

With the family's move from Utah to California, George Osmond gave up his insurance and real estate business to focus on managing his sons' burgeoning career.

Following on the breakout success of Motown's sibling quintet, the Jackson 5, the Osmonds released their own debut album in 1970 and became instant chart-toppers with the catchy single, "One Bad Apple (Don't Spoil the Whole Bunch)."

They followed with a string of subsequent hits, including "Double Lovin'," "Yo-Yo," "Hold Her Right" and "Down by the Lazy River." Their 1973 release "The Plan," a concept album highlighting the family's Mormon faith, was less successful.

Jimmy Osmond, the youngest of the nine siblings, sang with his brothers off and on before starting his own solo career, and Marie Osmond, the only girl, began appearing with her brothers at age 13 but never officially joined the act.

She and Donny co-hosted a popular TV variety show, "Donny and Marie," from 1976 to 1978, and Marie Osmond is a contestant on the hit show "Dancing with the Stars."

The family's two eldest sons, Tom and Virel, did not perform with their younger siblings, Sasaki said. Their mother, Olive Osmond, died a few years ago.

She and George Osmond are survived by 55 grandchildren and 48 great-grandchildren, Sasaki said.

Father of Osmond family singers dies

SALT LAKE CITY - George Osmond, father of Donny and Marie Osmond and patriarch to the family's singing group, The Osmond Brothers, died Tuesday. He was 90.

Family spokesman Kevin Sasaki said Osmond died at his home in Provo, Utah. Because he had not been ill, he likely died from natural causes incident to his age, Sasaki said.

Marie Osmond, a contestant on ABC's "Dancing With the Stars" who fainted following a live performance two weeks ago, was due to appear on Tuesday night's results segment, but instead boarded a plane in Los Angeles with her brother for Utah.

"He was the best man I've ever known," Donny Osmond told the "Entertainment Tonight" Web site.

The death was first reported on the "Entertainment Tonight" Web site and confirmed by The Associated Press through a spokeswoman for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, of which Osmond was a member.

Marie Osmond performed Monday night on "Dancing With the Stars," with Donny in attendance. She's not the only "Dancing" contestant to have lost a parent this season: Jane Seymour missed a show last month after the death of her mother, Mieke Frankenberg.

George Osmond married his wife, Olive, on Dec. 1, 1944. She died in 2004. The couple were the parents of nine children, many of whom became singing stars. Alan, Wayne, Merrill and Jay Osmond first became famous as The Osmond Brothers, a barbershop quartet singing at Disneyland and on "The Andy Williams Show."

Donny Osmond joined the group at age 6 and later hosted "The Donny and Marie Show" with his sister. The youngest son, Jimmy Osmond, is also a performer.

George Osmond also had 55 grandchildren and 48 great-grandchildren.

A World War II veteran, Osmond also served missions for the Mormon church in Hawaii and the United Kingdom. In his professional life, he worked in real estate, insurance sales and was once the postmaster for the city of Ogden. He gave up his work to manage the singing careers of his children.

Together, Osmond and his wife formed the Osmond Foundation, which later became the Children's Miracle Network, a nonprofit organization that raises funds for children's hospitals.

Osmond Dad Dies; Marie MIA from Dancing

George Osmond, the patriarch of one of showbiz's most successful singing clans, died at his Utah home Tuesday morning at the age of 90.

The news was confirmed by Marie Osmond's publicist, who said the performer would in turn be absent from the Dancing with the Stars results show, as she and her eight siblings head back home.

On Monday's show, the 48-year-old Dancing queen dedicated her performance of a WWII-inspired quickstep to her parents. Olive and George Osmond met after his tour of duty and danced together to earn money. Olive passed away in 2004.

The tribute dance earned Osmond a score of 28 out of 30 and a peck on the cheek from big brother Donny, who watched from the audience.

While Marie's publicist, Marleah Leslie, told E! News that Osmond would not be present for Tuesday's elimination, she did not immediately know whether Osmond would continue on the show or the just-announced tour, which kicks off Dec. 18 in Seattle.

It's also uncertain whether George's death will affect the Osmond family's scheduled appearance on The Oprah Winfrey Show Friday.

Under the tutelage of George and Olive, sons Alan, Wayne, Merill, Jay and Donny became international sensations and multimedia stars. Later joined by Marie and younger brother Jimmy, the Osmonds sold million of albums, toured widely and appeared on several TV shows, including their own 1970s cartoon and, most famously, the Donny & Marie show. (Two older brothers, Tom and Virl, were born deaf and not part of the family act.)

In August, the Osmonds marked their 50th anniversary with a special Vegas concert. Donny has since said the family would tour in 2008.

Marie Osmond becomes the second Dancing contestant to lose a parent this season. Jane Seymour's 92-year-old mother, Mieke Frankenberg, died Oct. 1, just one week into the competition.

Like Osmond, Seymour bowed out of the following night's results show, but returned from England the following week and dedicated her remaining routines to her mother. According to Seymour, her mother was a major fan of the program and the reason the actress signed up.

Osmond's loss is doing nothing to dispel the notion of a Dancing curse.

Last month, the mother of eight fainted on-camera after performing the samba, leaving professional dancer Jonathan Roberts to tend to his fallen partner and host Tom Bergeron to quickly cut to commercial break.Osmond said the fainting spell was nothing unusual for her and that she's prone to such spells when she gets particularly winded.

The apparent jinx has extended to guest performers as well. The same week as Osmond's televised tumble, Jennifer Lopez was forced to pretape her performance to attend the funeral of her maternal grandmother.

A week earlier, Gloria Estefan scrapped her appearance entirely to return to Miami to be by her mother's bedside after she underwent emergency surgery.

November 05, 2007

"Mockingbird" author wins U.S. medal



WASHINGTON - President George W. Bush awarded the highest U.S. civilian honor on Monday to two figures in the push for racial equality: former NAACP leader Benjamin Hooks and "To Kill a Mockingbird" author Harper Lee.

Hooks and Lee received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in a White House ceremony that also honored Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and Cuban dissident Oscar Elias Biscet.

Other recipients included Nobel Prize-winning economist Gary Becker; Brian Lamb, co-founder of the C-SPAN public affairs cable network; former Illinois Republican Rep. Henry Hyde; and Francis Collins, who led the Human Genome Project, the U.S.-led effort to map the human genome.

Hooks battled racial segregation throughout a career that saw him become Tennessee's first black criminal court judge and serve on the Federal Communications Commission. He also headed the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People for 15 years.

Hooks was often treated with less respect than the prisoners of war he guarded during World War Two, Bush said.

"He never tired or faltered in demanding that our nation live up to its founding ideals of liberty and equality," the president said.

Lee's coming-of-age novel, published during the turmoil of the civil rights era, drew on her experiences witnessing racial discrimination in small-town Alabama, where she grew up as a neighbor and friend of author Truman Capote.

Inspired by a racially charged rape trial in the 1930s, "To Kill a Mockingbird" has sold over 30 million copies since it was published in 1960 and is on the reading list in many U.S. schools.

In 1961 it won Lee the Pulitzer Prize and in 1962 was made into a movie, which won actor Gregory Peck an Oscar.

Peck's wife, Veronique, looked on from the front row as Bush draped the ornate medal over Lee's shoulders.

The reclusive Lee, 81, has only published a handful of essays since the novel and has made few public remarks. She was taken to the stage in a wheelchair but stood throughout the 35-minute ceremony, smiling broadly.

"'To Kill a Mockingbird' has influenced the character of our country for the better," Bush said. "It's been a gift to the entire world."

Bush also praised Johnson-Sirleaf, who was elected as Liberia's first female president in 2005 after 14 years of civil war, and offered support to jailed Cuban dissident Biscet, whose son accepted the medal on his behalf.

October 28, 2007



Second Gone with the Wind sequel ready

ATLANTA - Rhett Butler, the fictional Southern charmer who walked out of Scarlett O'Hara's life in "Gone with the Wind," returns to Georgia next weekend — on a book tour of sorts.

The book, to be unveiled Saturday, is a kind of retelling of Margaret Mitchell's masterpiece from Rhett's perspective and traces Butler from his roots in South Carolina to Georgia, where he met the dramatic Scarlett.

An Atlanta committee charged with protecting Mitchell's novel authorized the book, "Rhett Butler's People."

The novel begins long before Scarlett ever uttered her first "fiddle-dee-dee" and goes on for nearly 100 more pages beyond where Mitchell ended things with "Tomorrow is another day."

The book was written by little-known Civil War novelist Donald McCaig, 67. Though his occasional use of the N-word in his manuscript initially gave the committee pause, it accepted the manuscript.

This is the second companion novel authorized by the Mitchell committee. The first, "Scarlett" by Alexandra Ripley, released in 1991, was a financial success but unpopular with critics.

"Scarlett" sold more than 6 million copies and spawned a CBS miniseries.

Much has changed since then, though. "Scarlett" was splashed cross the pages of the now-defunct Life magazine, but Rhett Butler and his book have a MySpace page.

"The public itself wanted another sequel," said Paul Anderson Jr., part of the three-lawyer committee that advises the Mitchell estate on protecting and exercising the original book's copyright.

"But this is not like 'Rocky.' We're not coming back every time we think we can make another book," Anderson told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

October 18, 2007


Deborah Kerr slideshow created by Meredy.
Deborah Kerr, star of 'From Here to Eternity' and 'The King and I,' dies

Deborah Kerr, the acclaimed British actress whose versatile talent and refined screen persona made her one of Hollywood's top leading ladies in the 1950s in films such as "From Here to Eternity," "The King and I" and "An Affair to Remember," has died. She was 86.

Kerr, who in recent years suffered from Parkinson's disease, died Tuesday in Suffolk, eastern England, her agent said today.

In a screen career that was launched in the early 1940s, Kerr received six best actress Academy Award nominations for her roles in "Edward, My Son" (1949), "From Here to Eternity" (1953), "The King and I" (1956), "Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison" (1957), "Separate Tables"(1958) and "The Sundowners" (1960).

Kerr received an honorary Oscar in 1994 for her body of work in films that also included "Tea and Sympathy," "Beloved Infidel" and "The Night of the Iguana." The award paid tribute to "an artist of impeccable grace and beauty, a dedicated actress whose motion picture career has always stood for perfection, discipline and elegance."

The Scotland-born Kerr, who began her film career in England in 1940 and had been in 10 films before coming to Hollywood to co-star with Clark Gable in the 1947 MGM film "The Hucksters," was the postwar personification of the British gentlewoman.

Indeed, when she arrived in Hollywood after playing a nun in the British film "Black Narcissus," she not only was preceded by her reputation as a lady but for being, in the words of Laurence Olivier, "unreasonably chaste."

But Kerr memorably shattered her ladylike image in 1953 with "From Here to Eternity," in which she played an American Army officer's adulterous wife who has an affair with a first sergeant played by Burt Lancaster.

Her performance as the disillusioned Karen Holmes not only showed audiences a different side of Kerr, but the film boasts one of the most memorable shots in screen history: Kerr and Lancaster locked in a passionate embrace on a deserted Hawaiian beach as a wave washes over them.

"That certainly shook a few people up," Kerr said of her image-breaking role in a 1986 interview with the Chicago Tribune.

"Yes, people always think I'm the epitome of the English gentlewoman," she added with a laugh, "which just goes to show that things are never quite what they seem."

Kerr's versatility as an actress made her unique among Hollywood leading ladies of the 1950s, said Jeanine Basinger, head of the film studies program at Wesleyan University and the author of "A Woman's View: How Hollywood Spoke to Women."

"Generally, you had sort of archetypes: female stars that were sex symbols like Marilyn Monroe and female stars that were ladylike like Audrey Hepburn. Deborah Kerr could do both," Basinger told The Times a few years ago. "She could play a sexy role, as in 'From Here to Eternity,' and also play a nun, as in 'Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison.' "

But even while playing an adulterer in from "From Here to Eternity," Kerr is dignified, Basinger said. "She could give you the whole range in one performance, and that made her unique."

She was born Deborah Jane Kerr Trimmer in Helensburgh, Scotland, on Sept. 30, 1921, and was still a young child when her family moved to Alford, England.

Kerr, who loved to sing and dance as a child, won a scholarship to the Sadler's Wells ballet school in London and made her professional stage debut in 1938 as a member of the corps de ballet in "Prometheus."

"I was mad about ballet, but I grew too tall, and when I eventually realized I'd never become the second Margot Fonteyn, I auditioned for a play instead and got the part," she told the Chicago Tribune in 1986.

Kerr was playing walk-on parts with the Open Air Theatre in Regent's Park in 1939 when London film agent John Gliddon saw the company's production of "Pericles," in which Kerr had a tiny role as a page boy who pours wine for his mistress. Kerr had no lines, but Gliddon later said he was so taken with the expressiveness of her eyes and her graceful movements, which suggested ballet training, that he sought her out afterward. Telling her that he thought she was "star material," Gliddon offered to put her under contract. Kerr was not yet 18.

Her film debut came in 1941, when Kerr played a Salvation Army worker in a screen adaptation of the George Bernard Shaw comedy "Major Barbara," starring Wendy Hiller and Rex Harrison.

Kerr's small but key role as Jenny Hill was, according to Eric Braun in his 1977 biography "Deborah Kerr," "a signpost to the kind of part in which she would excel -- moral fortitude concealed by a frail appearance."

In 1945, Kerr joined a touring company that performed "Gaslight" for British troops in France, Holland and Belgium. At a party in Brussels, she met Royal Air Forces squadron leader Anthony Bartley. They were married in November 1945 and had two daughters. The marriage ended in divorce in 1959; a year later Kerr married screenwriter and novelist Peter Viertel, who survives her, as do her two daughters and three grandchildren.

"Black Narcissus," a 1947 drama about nuns trying to establish a religious community in a Himalayan outpost, earned Kerr a New York Film Critics Circle Award as best actress for her portrayal of the nuns' leader. The film was shot just before Kerr arrived in Hollywood to co-star with Gable in "The Hucksters." Kerr had piqued the interest of MGM studio chief Louis B. Mayer in "Perfect Strangers" in 1945.

When the actress was ushered in to meet Mayer for the first time, she was introduced as "Miss Deborah Kerr -- it rhymes with car." To which Mayer is said to have responded, "It rhymes with star." The studio used the phrase in promoting Kerr.

Signed to a seven-year contract with MGM, Kerr received her first best actress Oscar nomination playing Spencer Tracy's wife in George Cukor's 1949 drama "Edward, My Son."

Over the next four years, she appeared in films such as "Quo Vadis," "Julius Caesar," "King Solomon's Mines," "The Prisoner of Zenda" and "Young Bess."

Then came "From Here to Eternity."

Joan Crawford originally was scheduled to play the part of Karen Holmes in the screen version of James Jones' bestseller, which was set in Hawaii in the days leading up to Pearl Harbor. But Crawford had irked Columbia studio head Harry Cohn by insisting on using her own cameraman to shoot the picture.

When Kerr's agent asked her if she'd be interested in playing the part, she told him, "They'd never consider me. You must be crazy! Harry Cohn will kick you out of the office."

The next day, her agent called her and said, "You were right; he kicked me out of the office."

But that wasn't the end of the matter.

According to Braun's biography, when Cohn told producer Buddy Adler and director Fred Zinnemann that Kerr's agent had "suggested that English virgin from Metro" play Karen Holmes, both Adler and Zinnemann, Braun wrote, "looked at each other in frank astonishment and echoed: 'What a fantastic idea!' "

For the role, Kerr took voice training to sound American. She also dyed her hair blond. "I knew I could be sexy if I had to," she later said.

Zinnemann once said that by casting Kerr against her screen image, audiences would find it hard to believe she was an adulterer and that would make them curious to see what happened.

Kerr told Braun that Zinnemann's "encouragement of myself, in playing against type-casting, was a deciding factor in lifting me out of the rut of ladylike roles from which I'd begun to feel there was no exit."

Kerr later recalled that Zinnemann took a long time searching for the right beach to film her famous love scene with Lancaster.

"It had to have rocks in the distance, so the water could strike the boulders and shoot upward -- all very symbolic," she told The Times in 1982. "The scene turned out to be deeply affecting on film, but, God, it was no fun to shoot.

"We had to time it for the waves, so that at just the right moment a big one would come up and wash over us. Most of the waves came up only to our feet, but we needed one that would come up all the way. We were like surfers, waiting for the perfect wave. Between each take, we had to do a total cleanup. When it was all over, we had four tons of grit in our mouths -- and other places." Over the years, journalists employed a string of like-minded adjectives to describe Kerr. She was, they wrote, wholesome, cool, reserved and cultured. She demonstrated "grace and charm" and "ladylike spiritedness and wholesome sincerity," and she was the epitome of "the English gentlewoman."

For Kerr, the "ladylike" label was a constant source of irritation, and her response to it became a constant refrain in her interviews.

"Damn it, I am not a dowager empress," she told one interviewer.

But Kerr's "duchess" image persisted, particularly in America.

"Americans think if you're English you must of necessity be genteel, straight-laced, a little bit prim," she told the Washington Post in 1978. "But there's a difference between gentility and gentleness. I do think I exude a kind of gentleness that appeals to audiences. At least that's what my husband says when he's asked."

In 1953, Kerr made her Broadway debut in Robert Anderson's critically acclaimed play "Tea and Sympathy," in which she played the compassionate wife of a housemaster at a New England boys' school who befriends a sensitive 17-year-old student falsely accused by his classmates of being homosexual.

In the play's famous climactic scene, Kerr's character enters the room of the boy, whose emotional suffering has increased after a failed sexual encounter with the town tart to prove his manliness. Unbuttoning the top button of her blouse, she reaches out for the boy's hand and sits down on his bed.

"Years from now, when you talk about this -- and you will -- be kind," she said as the stage lights dimmed.

Elia Kazan, the play's director, later wrote in his 1988 autobiography, "Elia Kazan: A Life," that the play's ending produced the "awed silence that comes when the audience is deeply moved. There is nothing so eloquent and so heartening. When we had that, I knew we were going to run a long time."

Kerr reprised her role in the reworked and much-censored 1956 MGM film version of the play.

On screen the same year, she played another of her memorable roles, Anna, the governess in "The King and I," opposite Yul Brynner. In the film, according to Braun's biography, Kerr sang all of "I Whistle a Happy Tune" and sang well enough to do the lead-ins to most of the Rodgers and Hammerstein songs, but singer Marni Nixon sang "the high notes and those which needed sustaining."

After co-starring in Kazan's 1969 film "The Arrangement," Kerr made only one other theatrical feature film, "The Assam Garden" (1985). She didn't plan to retreat from the big screen in 1969 but was, she said, merely waiting for the next good part.

She found, however, that she was "either too young or too old" for the film roles that were offered to her, and she didn't want to do the kinds of movies that Hollywood had started making.

"Suddenly, everyone wanted explicit sex -- and far worse, explicit violence," she told the Chicago Tribune in 1986. "And I didn't want to end up doing a succession of 'star cameo roles.' You know, nine lines in 'Towering Inferno' or 11 lines in "Airport 104' or whatever, just to be in a film."

Kerr returned to the London stage in 1972, in "The Day After the Fair," followed by a tour of the United States in the same play the following year.

She continued acting on stage over the years, appearing in, among other productions, "The Corn is Green" in London; Edward Albee's "Seascape" on Broadway; and "Long Day's Journey Into Night" in Los Angeles. She also appeared in a number of TV and cable productions in the 1980s, including "Witness for the Prosecution," "A Woman of Substance," "Reunion at Fairborough" and "Hold the Dream."

In 1993, the popularity of the hit romantic comedy "Sleepless in Seattle" gave an unexpected boost to one of Kerr's most beloved movies, the 1957 tear-jerker "An Affair to Remember," a bittersweet love story co-starring Cary Grant.

In one scene, Meg Ryan, hoping to one day find Mr. Right, watches a video of "Affair" and sobs, "Those were the days when people knew how to be in love."

Said Kerr at the time: "I'm almost hysterical at the thought of making people cry with joy 30-odd years after Cary and I did our stuff. I've certainly shed tears at 'An Affair to Remember,' even though I know all the tricks of movie magic that went into it."

She added, "Believe me, Cary and I knew how to kiss. When we did a love scene, we may not have been trying to swallow each other but, for those brief moments, we just loved each other.

"I think I understand what women see in the movie. There is a sweetness that is appealing and far removed from today's crudities. It makes them realize that the world has lost something delightful."
Deborah Kerr Is Dead at 86

Deborah Kerr, a versatile actress who long projected the quintessential image of the proper, tea-sipping Englishwoman but who was also indelible in one of the most sexually provocative scenes of the 1950s, with Burt Lancaster in “From Here to Eternity,” died on Tuesday in Suffolk, England. She was 86.

Her death was announced to The Associated Press by her agent, Anne Hutton. She had Parkinson’s disease.

Miss Kerr was nominated for six Academy awards, without winning any, over more than four decades as a major Hollywood movie star. She finally received an honorary Oscar for her lifetime of work in 1994. Mostly in retirement since the mid-1980’s, she lived for many years in Switzerland, with her husband, Peter Viertel, the novelist and screenwriter.

The lovemaking on the beach in Hawaii with Mr. Lancaster, viewed with both of them in wet swimsuits as the tide came in, was hardly what anyone expected of Deborah Kerr at that point in her career. Along with Greer Garson and Jean Simmons, she was one of three leading ladies Americans thought of as typically British, and decidedly refined and upper-class. More than once she was referred to by directors, producers and newspapers as the “British virgin.”

Time magazine, in a 1947 feature article, predicted she would be one of the great movie stars because “while she could act like Ingrid Bergman, she was really a kind of converted Greer Garson, womanly enough to show up nicely in those womanly roles.”

Throughout her career, Miss Kerr worked at being unpredictable. She was believable as a steadfast nun in Black Narcissus; as the love-hungry wife of an empty-headed army captain stationed at Pearl Harbor in “From Here to Eternity”; as a headmaster’s spouse who sleeps with an 18-year-old student to prove to him that he is a man in “Tea and Sympathy”; as a spunky schoolmarm not afraid to joust and dance with the King of Siam in “The King and I”; as a Salvation Army lass in “Major Barbara”; and even as Portia, the Roman matron married to Brutus, in Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar.”

She could be virginal, ethereal, gossamer and fragile, or earthy, spicy and suggestive, and sometimes she managed to display all her skills at the same time.

Miss Kerr made “From Here to Eternity” even though Harry Cohn, chief of Columbia Pictures in that era, had wanted Joan Crawford in the part and had to be persuaded to accept Miss Kerr. She regarded the role as the high point in her climb to stardom in the United States, and it yielded her second Academy Award nomination.

Another high point came in 1956, when she was given the film role that Gertrude Lawrence had played on the stage in the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical “The King and I.” She played opposite Yul Brynner, who recreated his stage performance as the strutting king in the film.

Bosley Crowther, reviewing the movie version for The New York Times, praised “her beauty, her spirit and her English style.” Her singing for classics numbers like “Getting to Know You” was dubbed by the offscreen voice of many Hollywood stars of the time, Marni Nixon. But her acting needed no assistance; she was nominated for another Academy Award.

She also received Oscar nominations for “Edward, My Son” (released in 1949), “Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison” (1957); “Separate Tables” (1958); and “The Sundowners” (1960). Other notable roles came in “Major Barbara” (1941, her first credited film role); “Julius Caesar” (1953); and “Tea and Sympathy” (1956), based on the Robert Anderson play.

Miss Kerr was applauded in the Broadway stage production of the play as well. After Brooks Atkinson of The Times saw the original production, he wrote that Miss Kerr had “the initial advantage of being extremely beautiful, but she adds to her beauty the luminous perception who is aware of everything that is happening all around her and expresses it in effortless style.”

Miss Kerr struggled against being pigeonholed by the public as somehow representing the British upper class, and was said to have instructed friends to tell anyone who asked that she preferred cold roast beef sandwiches and beer to champagne and caviar any day. But she is also quoted in a 1977 biography by Eric Braun as saying that “the camera always seems to find an innate gentility in me.”

Deborah Jane Kerr Trimmer was born in Helensburgh, Scotland, on Sept. 30, 1921, the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Kerr Trimmer. Her father, who was called Jack, was an architect and civil engineer who had been wounded in World War I and who died when Deborah was in her early teens.

Her aunt, Phyllis Smale, had a school of drama and insisted that Deborah and her younger brother take lessons in acting, ballet and singing. Deborah was attracted to the ballet but concluded that she was too tall, at 5 feet 6 inches. She began her acting career by playing small parts with a group that performed Shakespeare’s plays in the Open Air Theatre in Regents Park, London.

She got her first movie contract in 1939 after Gabriel Pascal, the producer and director, spotted her in a restaurant.

During the war, she read children’s stories on BBC radio. She made movies, too, among them “Penn of Pennsylvania,” “The Day Will Dawn,” and “The Avengers.”

By 1945, she was much sought after by British filmmakers and was cast opposite Robert Donat in “Perfect Strangers.” Her career was further enhanced when she appeared as a nun in “Black Narcissus” in 1947. However, after the movie was released in the United States, it was called “an affront to religion and religious life” by the National Legion of Decency.

Miss Kerr was married to Anthony Bartley, an Englishman who had been a decorated fighter pilot during World War II, for 13 years. They were separated in 1959 and their divorce became final the next year. They had two children, Melanie and Francesca. In 1969, she married Peter Viertel, who survives her, along with her daughters and three grandchildren, according to The Associated Press.
Obituary: Deborah Kerr

Actress Deborah Kerr, who appeared in almost 50 films, was often regarded as the actress who, more than any other, successfully exported her Britishness to Hollywood.

Her image was of a refined, lady-like and level-headed person - the perfect English rose. She never liked the image, not least because she was born in Scotland.

Within a few years, her family moved to the south of England, and she went to boarding school in Bristol. At first she studied for the ballet, but then decided on acting.

An aunt taught drama in Bristol, and it was from her that she learned her stagecraft. Just before World War II, she had walk-on parts at the Open Air Theatre in Regents Park in London.

A film agent saw her, and by the time she was 20, Kerr had played important parts in three films including Major Barbara and Love on the Dole.

She was then in two of the most successful wartime British films, The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp and Perfect Strangers.

Shortly after the war, she gave a sensitive performance as a nun in Black Narcissus. She was signed up by MGM and went to Hollywood on a £750-a-week contract.

Initially her roles were almost all typecast as the world's idea of an elegant Englishwoman, but soon she showed that her range was considerably wider.

The image of gentility took a knock in 1953 in From Here to Eternity when, as a lusting wife, she rolled in the surf with Burt Lancaster in what was, for the time, a tempestuous love scene.

Her performances earned her an Oscar nomination. In various films, she played opposite Frank Sinatra, Yul Brynner and Cary Grant.

She received five further Oscar nominations for her performances in Edward My Son, The King and I, The End of the Affair, Heaven Knows Mr Allison, Separate Tables and The Sundowners.

On the stage, she gave a notable performance on Broadway in 1953 in Tea and Sympathy - a role she repeated on the screen.

After a period of retirement, she returned to acting, most notably in 1985's The Assam Garden.

In 1994, in poor health, she was the most touching participant in the Oscars ceremony, receiving an honorary award to make up for her six unrewarded nominations.

She was twice married, first just after the war to a Battle of Britain pilot. They had two daughters and the marriage was dissolved in 1959.

Since 1960, she moved to Switzerland with her second husband, US scriptwriter Peter Viertel.
British actress Kerr dies at 86

British actress Deborah Kerr, known to millions for her roles in The King And I, Black Narcissus and From Here To Eternity, has died at the age of 86.

Born in Scotland in 1921, the actress made her name in British films before becoming successful in Hollywood.

Nominated for the best actress Oscar six times, she was given an honorary award by the Academy in 1994.

Kerr, who had suffered from Parkinson's disease for a number of years, died in Suffolk on Tuesday, her agent said.

The actress, who was made a CBE in 1997, had lived in Switzerland but returned to England to be near her family when her illness worsened.

She leaves a husband, the novelist and screenwriter Peter Viertel, two daughters and three grandchildren.

Kerr began her career in regional British theatres and entertained the troops during World War II.

Her first major screen role came in 1941's Major Barbara, while her last came in 1985's The Assam Garden.

Between them she appeared alongside such Hollywood icons as Burt Lancaster, Cary Grant and Robert Mitchum.

Notable British films include The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp, in which she played three roles, and Black Narcissus, which saw as a nun in the Himalayas.

She remains best known, however, for her torrid sex scene with Lancaster in From Here to Eternity and for dancing with Yul Brynner in The King and I.

From the late 1960s onwards she concentrated on theatre and television roles.

Kerr always played down her success, attributing it to her having had "an awful lot of luck".

Her honorary Oscar came in recognition of "an artist of impeccable grace and beauty, a dedicated actress whose motion picture career has always stood for perfection, discipline and elegance".

"I must confess, I've had a marvellous time," she said as she collected the statuette.
Scottish-born actress Deborah Kerr dies aged 86



LONDON - Scottish-born actress Deborah Kerr, best known for her performance as the adulterous wife alongside Burt Lancaster in the 1953 film "From Here to Eternity," has died at age 86.

Her agent Anne Hutton said she died on Tuesday in Suffolk, eastern England.

"Her family was with her at the time. She had suffered from Parkinson's disease for some time and had just had her 86th birthday and so was an elderly lady. She just slipped away," Hutton said on Thursday.

Kerr's flame-haired beauty and image as an English rose made her a darling of Hollywood, and she starred in more than 40 films spanning nearly 50 years in cinema.

"Her type of refined sensuality proved refreshingly attractive, since it hinted at hidden desires and forbidden feelings, giving her acting an extra edge and interest," the Daily Telegraph wrote in its obituary.

Born Deborah Jane Kerr-Trimmer on September 30, 1921, in Helensburgh, Scotland, she trained in ballet before moving on to theater, and then film.

The actress landed her breakthrough screen role as a frightened Salvation Army worker in the all-star adaptation of the satire, "Major Barbara."

However, it was her work in three separate parts in the 1943 Michael Powell-Emeric Pressburger production "The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp," as the various women in the hero's life, that brought her wider recognition.

In 1947 Kerr moved to Hollywood, and in 1953 she shattered her prim image by playing an adulterous Army wife who has an affair with another officer, played by Lancaster.

Their infamous embrace on the beach, lapped by the waves, is one of the most enduring in cinema, and the role earned Kerr her second Academy Award nomination for best actress following that for "Edward, My Son" four years earlier.

Ever conscious of her image, Kerr joked while shooting bathing suit tests for the scene: "I feel naked without my tiara."

Her third Oscar nomination came for the 1956 picture "The King and I," in which she famously played a governess opposite Yul Brynner's Siamese monarch. She went on to garner three more best actress nominations, none of which she won.

She was finally awarded an honorary Academy Award in 1994 "in appreciation for a full career's worth of elegant and beautifully crafted performances."

In 1945 Kerr married Anthony Bartley, an RAF hero of the Battle of Britain. They had two daughters and divorced in the late 1950s. She married screenwriter Peter Viertel in 1960.

She is survived by Viertel, two daughters and three grandsons.
Turner Classic Movies to Honor Six-Time Oscar Nominee Deborah Kerr

Turner Classic Movies (TCM) will pay special tribute to six-time Oscar nominee Deborah Kerr, who passed away at the age of 86. On Sunday, Oct. 21, TCM will present a special double feature of two of Kerr's most memorable nominated roles. At 8 p.m., she stars as a lonely military wife who seeks happiness through an illicit affair in From Here to Eternity (1953), co-starring Burt Lancaster, Frank Sinatra and Donna Reed. And at 10:15 p.m., she plays a spinster who is completely dominated by her mother while staying at an English seaside resort in Separate Tables (1958), with Lancaster and Oscar winners David Niven and Wendy Hiller.

"Deborah Kerr was one of the great jewels of the movie industry," said TCM host Robert Osborne. "Not only was she an immensely gifted and versatile actress, but also someone who made every film she touched better."
Deborah Kerr: An Actress to Remember

Deborah Kerr's last name, as often pointed out, rhymes with star.

Kerr, the proper leading lady who let her henna hair down with Burt Lancaster in From Here to Eternity, suffered through a star-crossed romance with Cary Grant in An Affair to Remember, and reached out to the imperious Yul Brynner in The King and I, has died.

Kerr passed away Tuesday in England, her agent told the Associated Press. She was 86, and had been suffering from Parkinson's disease.

Asix-time Academy Award nominee, Kerr reigned in the 1950s and 1960s.

"It was sheer economics," Kerr told the New York Times in 1953. "There was a demand for a red-haired, porcelain-skinned heroine and I was just a natural for it. It's nobody's fault."

Kerr was to blame, however, for making her red-haired, porcelain-skinned heroines so human. Her blue blood ran red, as audiences became acutely aware of in From Here to Eternity, where the married Kerr lusts after Lancaster, her military husband's subordinate. Their passionate kiss in the rolling surf is the 1953's movie quintessential image, and one of Hollywood's most iconic clinches.

Kirk Douglas, who worked with Kerr in her last major Hollywood film, the 1969 drama The Arrangement, remembered his costar Thursday as "not only a fine actress but always a fine lady."

Kerr earned a Best Actress nomination for Eternity, as she did for one of her other most famous movies, 1956's The King and I. Kerr didn't really sing in the musical (the voice belonged to Marni Nixon, the soprano heard, but not seen, in My Fair Lady and West Side Story), but really did glide across the palace floor with Brynner in the showpiece number, "Shall We Dance?"

Kerr's other Oscar nominations were for the 1949 drama of paternal obsession, Edward, My Son; the 1957 shipwreck romance, costarring Robert Mitchum, Heaven Knows Mr. Allison; the 1958 all-star soap opera, Separate Tables; and 1960's sheep-herding epic, The Sundowners, also costarring Mitchum.

Despite racking up four nominations in five years, Kerr never won. She was, however, presented with an honorary Oscar in 1994.

The Academy honor came a year after Kerr virtually costarred in Sleepless in Seattle. The Tom Hanks-Meg Ryan romantic comedy is obsessed with Kerr and Grant's An Affair to Remember, with the movie's plot points of chance encounters and car crashes lovingly, and for comedic effect, tearfully retold.

Born Sept. 30. 1921, in Scotland, Kerr was raised and began her acting career in Britain.

She made her Hollywood debut in 1946, and started right at the top, starring opposite the King of Hollywood, Clark Gable, in The Hucksters. As the scope of Hollywood movies got bigger—the better to compete with television—so did the breadth of Kerr's roles. She traipsed through the Congo in 1950's King Solomon's Mines, romanced old Rome in 1951's Quo Vadis and had Brutus' back, who got Caesar's back, in 1953's Julius Caesar.

In 1953, Kerr made her Broadway debut in the young-man-older-woman drama, Tea and Sympathy. She later starred in its 1956 film version opposite her stage costar, John Kerr (no relation).

By the mid-1960s, Kerr was in her mid-40s, and the world was in its adolescence. By the end of the decade, she was all but out of film. She returned to Broadway in 1975's Seascape, and rated an Emmy nomination for the 1984 TV miniseries A Woman of Substance.

"You have all made my life truly a happy one," Kerr said at the 1994 Oscars. "Thank you from the bottom of my heart."

Actress Deborah Kerr dies at age 86



LONDON - Deborah Kerr, who shared one of Hollywood's most famous kisses and made her mark with such roles as the correct widow in "The King and I" and the unhappy officer's wife in "From Here to Eternity," has died. She was 86.

Kerr, who suffered from Parkinson's disease, died Tuesday in Suffolk in eastern England, her agent, Anne Hutton, said Thursday.

For many she will be remembered best for her kiss with Burt Lancaster as waves crashed over them on a Hawaiian beach in the wartime drama "From Here to Eternity."

Kerr's roles as forceful, sometimes frustrated women pushed the limits of Hollywood's treatment of sex on the screen during the censor-bound 1950s.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences nominated Kerr a six times for best actress, but never gave her an Academy Award until it presented an honorary Oscar in 1994 for her distinguished career as an "artist of impeccable grace and beauty, a dedicated actress whose motion picture career has always stood for perfection, discipline and elegance."

She had the reputation of a "no problem" actress.

"I have never had a fight with any director, good or bad," she said toward the end of her career. "There is a way around everything if you are smart enough."

Kerr (pronounced CARR) was the only daughter of Arthur Kerr-Trimmer, a civil engineer and architect who died when she was 14.

Born in Helensburgh, Scotland, she moved with her parents to England when she was 5, and she started to study dance in the Bristol school of her aunt, Phyllis Smale.

Kerr won a scholarship to continue studying at the Sadler's Wells Ballet School in London. A 17 she made her stage debut as a member of the corps de ballet in "Prometheus."

She soon switched to drama, however, and began playing small parts in repertory theater in London until it was shut down by the 1939 outbreak of World War II.

After reading children's stories on British Broadcasting Corp. radio, she was given the part of a hatcheck girl with two lines in the film "Contraband," but her speaking role ended on the cutting-room floor.

After more repertory acting she had another crack at films, reprising her stage role of Jenny, a Salvation Army worker, in a 1940 adaptation of George Bernard Shaw's "Major Barbara," and receiving favorable reviews both in Britain and the United States.

She continued making films in Britain during the war, including one — "Colonel Blimp" — in which she played three different women over a span of decades.

"It is astonishing how she manages to make the three parts distinctly separate as characterizations," said New Movies magazine at the time.

Kerr was well-reviewed as an Irish spy in "The Adventuress" and as the tragic girlfriend of a Welsh miner in "Love on the Dole."

She was invited to Hollywood in 1946 to play in "The Hucksters" opposite Clark Gable. She went on to work with virtually all the other top American actors and with many top directors, including John Huston, Otto Preminger and Elia Kazan.

Tired of being typecast in serene, ladylike roles, she rebelled to win a release from her MGM contract and get the role of Karen Holmes in "From Here to Eternity."

Playing the Army officer's alcoholic, sex-starved wife in a fling with Lancaster as a sergeant opened up new possibilities for Kerr.

She played virtually every part imaginable from murderer to princess to a Roman Christian slave to a nun.

In "The King and I," with her singing voice dubbed by Marni Nixon, she was Anna Leonowens, who takes her son to Siam so that she can teach the children of the king, played by Yul Brynner.

Her best-actress nominations were for "Edward, My Son" (1949), "From Here to Eternity" (1953), "The King and I" (1956), "Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison" (1957), "Separate Tables" (1958), and "The Sundowners" (1960).

Among her other movies is "An Affair to Remember" with Cary Grant.

Other notable roles were in "The Sundowners," "Beloved Infidel," "The Innocents" (an adaptation of the Henry James novella "Turn of the Screw"), "The Night of the Iguana" with Richard Burton and "The Arrangement" with Kirk Douglas.

After "The Arrangement" in 1968, she took what she called a "leave of absence" from acting, saying she felt she was "either too young or too old" for any role she was offered.

Kerr told The Associated Press that she turned down a number of scripts, either for being too explicit or because of excessive violence.

She refused to play a nude scene in "The Gypsy Moths," released in 1968. "It was when they started that `Now everybody has got to take their clothes off,'" she said. "My argument was that it was completely gratuitous. Had it been necessary for the dramatic content, I would have done it."

In fact she undressed for "The Arrangement," even though the scene was later cut. "There the nude scene was necessary, husband and wife in bed together," Kerr said. "That was real."

She returned to the stage, acting in Edward Albee's "Seascape" on Broadway and "Long Day's Journey Into Night" in Los Angeles.

Her Broadway debut was in 1953, when she was acclaimed as Laura Reynolds, a teacher's wife who treats a sensitive student compassionately in "Tea and Sympathy."

After a full season in New York, she took it on a national tour and recreated the role in a movie in 1956.

Kerr was active until the mid-1980s, with "The Assam Garden," "Hold the Dream" and "Reunion at Fairborough" all in 1985.

She told the AP that TV reruns of her old movies have "kept me alive" for a new generation of film fans.

In 1946 Kerr married Anthony Charles Bartley, whom she had met as a squadron leader in the Royal Air Force. They had two daughters and were divorced in 1959. A year later she married Peter Viertel, a novelist-screenwriter, with whom she lived on a large estate with two trout ponds in the Swiss Alpine resort of Klosters and in a villa in Marbella, Spain.

Kerr is survived by Viertel, two daughters and three grandchildren.

October 15, 2007

Actress Marsha Hunt Still Spry at 90



LOS ANGELES - Marsha Hunt turns 90 on Oct. 17, but you'd hardly know it. Her lovely face remains almost wrinkle-free, she is slim and vigorous, and she has total recall of her life in Hollywood, including the infamous studio blacklist that almost killed her career.

Her 89th year has been a busy one. She was a guest of honor at the Noir Film Festival in San Francisco, where one of her films, "Raw Deal," was shown. And she later acted in a short noir drama filmed nearby. "I got it in one take," she says proudly.

Last spring, she recited a traditional poem at the Hollywood Bowl's annual Easter sunrise service. She was supposed to read the selection, but because of an eye ailment she memorized all 96 lines, getting through it "without a net to catch me."

She recently produced an album of pop songs by young Tony London, accompanied by the Page Cavanagh Trio. And she's the subject of three paper-doll collectables dressed in the high-fashion designs she wore on the screen, as well as a coffee-table book, "The Way We Wore," a gallery of her studio fashion photos.

Then there's the fan mail, which pours in because of screenings of her movies on TCM, AMC and European TV.

Hunt talked volubly during a recent interview at the sprawling San Fernando Valley ranch house where she's lived for more than six decades.

The blacklist is not among Hunt's favorite topics of conversation, but she agreed to discuss that dark period in Hollywood history, when congressmen hauled actors, writers and directors into hearings to test whether they were communists. Scores of careers were ruined.

At the time, Hunt was doing a lot of work in this new medium called television.

"I was hot," she recalled. "I did the first Shakespeare that was coast to coast on TV. I was on the cover of Life magazine. I did a lot of talk shows, and three networks offered me my own talk show."

She took time out of her busy schedule for her first visit to Paris, and when she returned, the offers for her own show were rescinded. She soon found the reason: she had been accused of leftist leanings by Red Channels, a publication that targeted supposed communists.

"I had one phony excuse after another, and I realized that I was now a leper," she said. She figures she was targeted because she had spoken out at gatherings that opposed the red hunts "but none of them had any whiff of communism." She had to wait seven years before the offers started again.

"It was never really over," she commented. "They never really acknowledged it because this was strictly illegal. It was restraint of trade, against the law in this country."

Born Marcia Virginia Hunt in Chicago and reared in New York City, her father was an insurance executive and her mother was a vocal coach and opera singer. She skipped college to attend drama school, modeling with the John Powers agency as a sideline.

When she was 17 in 1935, she paid her first visit to Hollywood, telling interviewers that she wasn't interested in movies even though she had "dreamed my whole life about being in films." The headline read, "Model Spurns Films." The result: four offers from studios. She chose Paramount.

After 12 films in two years and another year idle, she was dropped and spent a year and a half freelancing. She made three films at MGM as a per diem player

"MGM was sheer magic," she remarked. "When I arrived at the studio for a one-day role, they parked my car. I went on the set and found a director's chair with a sign on it, 'Miss Hunt.' Another sign was on my dressing room. I said to myself, 'Any studio that treats a one-day player that way, really knows how to make pictures.' They won my loyalty."

She signed a term contract with the studio and made three B films, each taking a week to make — Monday through Saturday. Soon she was elevated to A films.

Even though MGM boasted "more stars than there are in heaven," Hunt found there was no caste system — "though you didn't invade (the stars') privacy."

She recalled being in Hong Kong after making a film in the Philippines. She was in a shop at the Peninsula Hotel, where she had ordered a dress made for her. It wasn't ready and she was leaving for the U.S. She looked up and saw Clark Gable beside her. She had never met him, but he knew who she was.

"I can pick up your dress and deliver it when I get home," he said. Two weeks later, Gable rang the bell at her house and delivered the dress to her astonished husband.

Hunt made three films with Greer Garson_ "Pride and Prejudice," "Blossoms in the Dust" and "Valley of Decision," and had one encounter with Greta Garbo.

Garbo thought of cutting the long hair she had worn in every movie. One day Hunt, who wore a short feather cut, got a call to report to the Garbo set where the star inspected her hair and nodded. Garbo wore Hunt's cut in "Two-faced Woman," which happened to be her last movie.

How does Marsha Hunt feel about reaching 90?

"I'm so delighted about all of it," she said with enthusiasm. "I've had the fullest 90 years imaginable. I can't think of a year that was wasted. They were so crammed with variety and privilege and opportunity.

"I can't wait for the next 10. Then I'll look and see if it's worth hanging around."

September 18, 2007

AFI showing 11 classic films at once

LOS ANGELES - The American Film Institute is celebrating its 40th anniversary by simultaneously screening 11 classic films, each with a live introduction by a star or filmmaker.

The screenings, on Oct. 3 at the Arclight Hollywood theater, are open to the public. Among the presenters will be Jack Nicholson for "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest," Julie Andrews for "The Sound of Music," Clint Eastwood for "Unforgiven" and George Lucas for "Star Wars — Episode IV: A New Hope."

"I cannot think of another event when movie makers and movie lovers have come together in such a spectacular fashion," Lucas said in a statement. "I'm proud to be part of this historic night — both as movie lover and a movie maker."

Other introductions will be made by Warren Beatty for "Bonnie and Clyde," Billy Crystal and Rob Reiner for "When Harry Met Sally...," Kirk Douglas for "Spartacus," Morgan Freeman for "The Shawshank Redemption," Tippi Hedren for "The Birds" and Sylvester Stallone for "Rocky."

Tickets for "Target Presents AFI's 40th Anniversary" go on sale Wednesday for $25.

September 10, 2007

'Johnny Belinda' actress Jane Wyman dies



Click here for video tribute.

LOS ANGELES - Jane Wyman won an Oscar for her role as a deaf rape victim in the film "Johnny Belinda" and she'll probably be best remembered for her portrayal of a power-mad winery owner in TV's "Falcon Crest."

But her greatest distinction may have been refusing to kiss and tell about her love life, most especially her marriage to future president Ronald Reagan.

Wyman died early Monday at her Palm Springs home, son Michael Reagan said. Wyman's age was listed as 93 in several reference books, however other sources, including the official family Web site, say she was 90.

"I have lost a loving mother, my children Cameron and Ashley have lost a loving grandmother, my wife Colleen has lost a loving friend she called Mom and Hollywood has lost the classiest lady to ever grace the silver screen," Reagan said in a statement.

Wyman's film career started in the 1930s and stretched from the "Gold Diggers of 1937" to 1969's "How to Commit Marriage," co-starring Bob Hope and Jackie Gleason. From 1981 to 1990 she played Angela Channing, a Napa Valley vintner who maintained her grip with a steely will on CBS' "Falcon Crest."

Her marriage in 1940 to fellow Warner Bros. contract player Ronald Reagan was celebrated in the fan magazines as one of Hollywood's ideal unions. While he was in uniform during World War II, her career ascended, signaled by her 1946 Oscar nomination for "The Yearling."

She and Reagan divorced in 1948, the year she won an Oscar for "Johnny Belinda." Reagan reportedly cracked to a friend: "Maybe I should name Johnny Belinda as co-respondent."

After Reagan became governor of California and then president of the United States, Wyman kept a decorous silence about her ex-husband, who had married actress Nancy Davis. In a 1968 newspaper interview, Wyman explained the reason:

"It's not because I'm bitter or because I don't agree with him politically. I've always been a registered Republican. But it's bad taste to talk about ex-husbands and ex-wives, that's all. Also, I don't know a damn thing about politics."

A few days after Reagan died on June 5, 2004, Wyman broke her silence, saying: "America has lost a great president and a great, kind and gentle man."

Warner Bros. signed Wyman to a long-term contract in 1936, and the studio was notorious for typecasting its contract players.

Wyman suffered that fate. She recalled in 1968: "For 10 years I was the wisecracking lady reporter who stormed the city desk snapping, `Stop the presses! I've got a story that will break this town wide open!'"

In 1937, Wyman married a wealthy manufacturer of children's clothes, Myron Futterman, in New Orleans. The marriage was reported as her second, but an earlier marriage was never confirmed. She divorced him in November 1938, declaring she wanted children and he didn't.

The actress became entranced by Reagan, a handsome former sportscaster who was a newcomer to the Warner lot. She finagled a date with him, and romance ensued.

After returning from a personal appearance tour with columnist Louella Parsons, they were married on Jan. 26, 1940. The following year she gave birth to a daughter, Maureen. They later adopted a son, Michael. They also had a daughter who was born several months premature in June 1947 and died a day later.

In Reagan's autobiography "An American Life," the index shows only one mention of Wyman, and it runs for only two sentences.

Their daughter Maureen died in August 2001 after a battle with cancer. At the funeral, Wyman, balancing on a cane, put a cross on the casket. Reagan, suffering from Alzheimer's disease, was not well enough to attend.

Wyman escaped B-pictures by persuading Jack Warner to loan her to Paramount for "The Lost Weekend." The film won the Academy Award for 1945 and led to another loanout — to MGM for "The Yearling." De-glamourized as a backwoods wife and mother, the actress received her first Oscar nomination.

After 40 films at Warner Bros., Wyman achieved her first acting challenge with "Johnny Belinda." When Jack Warner saw a rough cut of the film, he ranted to the director, Jean Negulesco: "We invented talking pictures, and you make a picture about a deaf and dumb girl!"

He changed his attitude when "Johnny Belinda" received 12 Academy Award nominations and the Oscar for Jane Wyman.

Wyman continued making prestigious films such as "The Glass Menagerie," Alfred Hitchcock's "Stage Fright" and "Here Comes the Groom" (with Bing Crosby). Two tearjerkers, "The Blue Veil" (1951) and "Magnificent Obsession" (1954), brought her Oscar nominations as best actress.

Other film credits included: "So Big," "Lucy Gallant," "All That Heaven Allows," "Miracle in the Rain," "Holiday for Lovers," "Pollyanna" and "Bon Voyage!"

Her first entry into television came with "The Jane Wyman Show," an anthology series that appeared on NBC from 1955 to 1958. She introduced the shows, half of them starring herself, half with other actors. She quit the show after three years, saying that "putting on a miniature movie once a week" was exhausting.

In 1952 Wyman married Fred Karger, a studio music director. They divorced, later remarried and divorced the second time in 1965.

When Wyman received the script for "Falcon Crest," she was undecided about undertaking the nasty, power-hungry Angela Channing, so different from the self-sacrificing characters of her movie days.

But she liked the idea that Angela "runs everything. She goes straight through everything like a Mack truck."

Riding the wave of prime-time soap operas that made "Dallas" and "Dynasty" national sensations, "Falcon Crest" lasted nine seasons. The series ended with Angela again in control of the vineyard. Her battered family raised their glasses in a toast: "The land endures."

"Next to my parents, Jane was the most influential person in my young career," said Lorenzo Lamas, who starred with Wyman on "Falcon Crest." "She has left an incredible body of work and accomplishments that cannot go without being recognized and celebrated. I will miss her greatly."

After Reagan became president in 1981, his former wife gave few interviews and responded to questions about him with a stony look. When "Falcon Crest" ended, she withdrew from public view. She saw a few intimates and devoted much time to painting.

"She was a wonderful woman and great to work with," said actress Jane Seymour, who starred in TV's "Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman," where Wyman guest-starred in a 1993 episode as Seymour's mother. "She was an amazing pro."

Wyman summed up her long career in a 1981 newspaper interview: "I've been through four different cycles in pictures: the brassy blonde, then came the musicals, the high dramas, then the inauguration of television."

Born Sarah Jane Fulks in St. Joseph, Mo, she grew up in a cheerless home in which her mother's time was devoted to her seriously ailing husband. After her father died, Sarah Jane accompanied her mother to Los Angeles, where the girl tried to get jobs in the studios. There was no work for the snub-nosed teenager, and she returned to St. Joseph.

She attended the University of Missouri, worked as a manicurist and switchboard operator, then sang on radio as Jane Durrell. When that career dwindled, she decided to try Hollywood again, began playing bit parts, and changed Durrell to Wyman.

September 06, 2007

What Illness? Pleshette Still a Spitfire


Suzanne Pleshette speaks during a discussion for TV Land's 35th anniversary tribute to "The Bob Newhart Show," Wednesday, Sept. 5, 2007, in Beverly Hills, Calif.

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. - Suzanne Pleshette is very much alive, and ever her saucy self.

In a rare public appearance Wednesday night for a 35th-anniversary tribute to "The Bob Newhart Show" (1972-78), her most enduring work, the veteran actress showed that a year of serious personal and health matters hasn't dampened her spitfire personality.

"I'm cancer-free, my (breasts) are great and ... I'm extremely, extremely rich," she responded to a question from The Associated Press, generating howls of laughter from a packed audience during a panel discussion featuring the cast of the beloved sitcom.

The tribute, co-hosted by the TV Land cable network and the Paley Center for Media, attracted most of the show's principals, as well as legendary-comic guests Don Rickles and Tim Conway. But Pleshette's attendance had been a question mark.

In August 2006, it was announced that the actress, 70, was being treated for lung cancer. In April, her actor-husband Tom Poston died from respiratory failure. Even as late as Wednesday afternoon, publicists would not confirm Pleshette's participation in the tribute, and she did not walk the arrivals line, where Newhart spoke about his longtime leading lady's health.

"It is not cancer," he said. "She had an operation, they got it all. She then developed a pulmonary problem. She went in the hospital. When she went in the hospital, she caught pneumonia, so she went back in the hospital. It was touch and go. She's here tonight, and she told me, `Yesterday, I couldn't have made it.'"

Early into the panel discussion, Pleshette noted, "I could have dropped dead. There are three doctors who kept me alive, just for tonight."

Pleshette, looking fresh in a black pinstriped suit, was asked what she thought the classic show's real secret of success was. "The sexual energy between us," she responded dryly, inspiring a belly laugh from Newhart.

"I don't remember that," he shot back.

She was serious for a moment, though, when talking about working with Newhart as the ever amusing and ever loving Bob and Emily.

"We were a bright couple," Pleshette said. "We were a couple who cared deeply for each other. We were a working couple, both making substantial amounts of money. And I just think we were fabulous."

TV Land airs a 35th-anniversary marathon of "The Bob Newhart Show" on Monday, running eight episodes selected by Newhart, from 8 p.m. to midnight.

September 05, 2007

Indiana's Tamika Catchings has torn Achilles' tendon surgically repaired

INDIANAPOLIS -- Indiana Fever forward Tamika Catchings had surgery Wednesday to repair a torn Achilles' tendon in her right foot.

The Fever said Catchings was resting at her Indianapolis home after the surgery by Dr. Dan Lehman.

''It was a complete tear of her Achilles','' Lehman said in a team statement. ''It was successfully repaired and everything went well.''

Catchings, a U.S. Olympic gold medalist and five-time WNBA All-Star, was injured during Monday's Eastern Conference finals loss at Detroit. She collapsed to the floor during the final minute of the first half and was taken from the floor in a wheelchair.

The Fever said she will probably take six to nine months to recover.

Catchings finished fourth in league MVP voting announced Wednesday despite missing the final 13 games of the regular season after suffering a partial tear of the plantar fascia in her left foot. In 21 regular-season games, she averaged 16.9 points and had career-best figures of 9.0 rebounds and 4.7 assists - leading the Fever in each category for a sixth straight season.
Catchings To Undergo Surgery Wednesday

INDIANAPOLIS – U.S. Olympic gold medalist and five-time WNBA All-Star forward Tamika Catchings will undergo surgery on Wednesday, Sept. 5, to repair a torn Achilles tendon sustained during the second quarter of Monday night’s Eastern Conference Finals loss in Detroit.

Catchings collapsed to the floor with 43.2 seconds remaining in the first half. She was taken from the floor in a wheelchair, and flew back to Indianapolis late Monday night with team physician Dr. David Harsha.

Surgery will be performed by Dr. Dan Lehman, affiliated with St.Vincent Sports Medicine, and Orthopedics of Indianapolis. Catchings’ anticipated recovery time following surgery is between six and nine months.

A top candidate for WNBA MVP honors through the first half of the 2007 season, Catchings missed the final 13 games of the regular season after sustaining a partial tear of the plantar fascia in her left foot. She made a successful return to the court just in time for the first round of the WNBA Playoffs, averaging 19.7 points and 15.3 rebounds in a 2-1 first-round series win over Connecticut. Catchings posted double-doubles in all three games of the series. Her 46 rebounds were a WNBA record for a 3-game playoff series, and her 20 rebounds in Game 1 of the series, her first game back from injury, was the second-best playoff figure ever.

In 21 games, she finished the regular season with an average of 16.9 points, and career-best figures of 9.0 rebounds and 4.7 assists per game. She topped the WNBA with 3.1 steals per contest and led the Fever in scoring, rebounds, steals and assists for a sixth straight season. With Catchings in the lineup, Indiana raced to a 16-4 record to begin the year – the best 20-game mark in Eastern Conference history.

The Fever finished the regular season 21-13 for a third consecutive year, becoming the first Eastern Conference team ever to boast three straight 20-win seasons. The Fever outlasted Connecticut to advance to the Eastern Finals for the second time in three seasons, but after winning Game 1 of the best-of-three series against Detroit, lost Games 2 and 3.

August 30, 2007

So, You Want to be in Pictures by Tommy L. Garrett



My review of the book:

Mr. Garrett has written a winner that's a must-read for anyone who's a true fan of classic movies, television and celebrities. Tommy's tome is filled with a plentitude of fascinating facts and inside information that will please the serious vintage film fan, and enough dish to please the casual fan as well. I just finished this first in a planned series of four books and am already looking forward to the second one.
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August 28, 2007

Indiana 93, Connecticut 88, OT

INDIANAPOLIS - With her team comfortably ahead, Connecticut's Katie Douglas started talking trash to a group of Indiana Fever supporters.

"Y'all quiet over here today," she yelled in the midst of about 6,000 fans, who had little to cheer about for the first three quarters of Monday's Eastern Conference playoff game.

The fans weren't quiet for long. The Fever rallied to force overtime, then completed the biggest comeback in WNBA playoff history by defeating the Sun 93-88 to advance to the Eastern Conference finals.

The Fever overcame a 39-17 second-quarter deficit to win the first-round series 2-1. The previous biggest deficit overcome was 21 points, by Minnesota in a 74-72 win on Aug. 28, 2003, against Los Angeles.

Tamika Catchings, who led the Fever with 30 points and 13 rebounds, said her team never lost confidence.

"We did a great job as far as chipping, chipping, chipping," she said. "That's one thing coach talked about. We're not going to get 22 points in one possession."

Tamika Whitmore scored 24 points and Anna DeForge added 18 for the Fever.

Douglas led Connecticut with 27 points and Lindsay Whalen and Asjha Jones both added 21.

The Sun won their first five games against the Fever this season, but lost the two that mattered most. The final score was the same as their first playoff game at Connecticut, which lasted three overtimes.

Indiana outscored Connecticut 45-33 in the fourth quarter and overtime on Monday.

"They just got up and pressured us a little bit more," Douglas said. "They just got stops. We just kind of went cold. You can't expect to be on fire all night.

"When they got stops, they were doing what we were doing to them the first three quarters. They were running it down our throats in transition, getting easy baskets and getting confidence."

In overtime, Catchings hit a 3-pointer with 31 seconds left to give the Fever an 89-86 lead. Douglas missed a 3-pointer, and Indiana rebounded with 15.1 seconds left.

Whitmore made the first of two free throws with 14.4 seconds left to bump Indiana's lead to 90-86.

Nykesha Sales scored on a layup with 5 seconds left to cut the Fever's lead to 90-88.

Catchings was fouled on a dead ball and made the one shot. By rule, the Fever were given possession, and Catchings was fouled again. She made both free throws with four seconds left to seal the win for Indiana.

Connecticut led 64-48 in the fourth quarter when the Fever went on an 11-0 run, highlighted by five points from Sheri Sam, to cut their deficit to 64-59 with 6:40 to go.

Indiana chopped the lead to 66-64 on a 3-pointer by Whitmore with 3:05 left, then took the lead on a 3-point play by Whitmore with 2:30 to go.

Indiana took a 73-72 lead on two free throws by Catchings with 45.5 seconds left. Connecticut took possession, but Indiana tipped the ball out of bounds with 8 seconds left on the shot clock. Whalen shot an airball on a fadeaway jumper with the shot clock winding down, and Indiana rebounded with 21.5 seconds to go.

Catchings made two free throws with 20.3 seconds left to give Indiana a 75-72 lead.

Douglas missed a 3-pointer, but Connecticut got the loose ball, and Sales made a 3-pointer to tie the game at 75.

Douglas fouled Catchings as she brought the ball upcourt, and Catchings made two free throws with 5.8 seconds left to give the Fever a 77-75 lead.

Connecticut quickly moved the ball downcourt, and Douglas redeemed herself with a layup with 1.5 seconds left that forced overtime.

"I was thinking if I could dunk it, I'd love to," Douglas said. "I was so frustrated with myself for making a silly foul."

Catchings averaged 19.7 points and 15.3 rebounds in the series, her first three games back after missing 13 games with an injured left foot. DeForge averaged 25 points per game in the series after averaging 8.7 points in the regular season.

Douglas was upset that Connecticut continued its pattern of losing big leads, but she said the Fever had a lot to do with it on Monday.

"Give credit to Indiana," she said. "They didn't hang their heads."

August 26, 2007



Park opens dedicated to Dennis Weaver

RIDGWAY, Colo. - A new park that features fly-fishing, scenic trails and a huge bronze eagle was dedicated Saturday to the late "Gunsmoke" actor Dennis Weaver on 60 acres of land his wife donated to the town.

Weaver moved to Ridgway in 1988, building a home made up of recycled tires and cans on 175 acres along the Uncompahgre River.

The centerpiece of park opened in his name is a 2,800-pound bronze eagle with a 21-foot wingspan.

"The eagle is a sign of power. He was a very quiet, strong, powerful person," said Gerry Weaver, widow of the actor-environmentalist.

Weaver, who died last year at the age of 81, first became famous as Chester, the limping sidekick of Sheriff Matt Dillon in "Gunsmoke," which first aired in 1955.

He was taken more seriously in later TV and film roles during a six-decade career, including the lead in Steven Spielberg's 1971 "Duel." He also played a canny New Mexico deputy solving New York City crime in "McCloud."

Dennis Weaver's humble beginnings instilled a love of the environment in him, Gerry Weaver added. Mayor Pro Tem John Clark said many residents came to know and admire the star.

"Those of us over 40 remember him from his 'McCloud' TV show and his older movies," he said. "He cared about the land and the area he chose to settle. It's really appropriate that this park is here."

"His favorite word was passion. If you don't have passion, what do you got?" said Gerry Weaver.

August 13, 2007

New stamp will honor Jimmy Stewart



INDIANA, Pa. — A stamp honoring Jimmy Stewart will be released Friday by the U.S. Postal Service at ceremonies in Indiana, Pa., and Hollywood, Calif.

The photo on the stamp is based on a portrait of Stewart as he appeared in a publicity photo for 1949's The Stratton Story.

Stewart, who died in 1997, starred in more than 80 movies including It's a Wonderful Life,Vertigo,Rear Window and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. He won an Oscar in 1941 for The Philadelphia Story.

The Pennsylvania ceremony will be held at the Jimmy Stewart Museum in Indiana, the actor's hometown. The other will be held at Universal Studios in Hollywood.

August 12, 2007

So, You Want to be in Pictures by Tommy L. Garrett



Letters from a Known Woman by Tommy L. Garrett

Entertainer, businessman Merv Griffin dies

LOS ANGELES - Merv Griffin, the big band-era crooner turned impresario who parlayed his "Jeopardy" and "Wheel of Fortune" game shows into a multimillion-dollar empire, died Sunday. He was 82.

Griffin died of prostate cancer, according to a statement from his family that was released by Marcia Newberger, spokeswoman for The Griffin Group/Merv Griffin Entertainment.

From his beginning as a $100-a-week San Francisco radio singer, Griffin moved on as vocalist for Freddy Martin's band, sometime film actor in films and TV game and talk show host, and made Forbes' list of richest Americans several times.

"The Merv Griffin Show" lasted more than 20 years, and Griffin said his capacity to listen contributed to his success.

"If the host is sitting there thinking about his next joke, he isn't listening," Griffin reasoned in a recent interview.

But his biggest break financially came from inventing and producing "Jeopardy" in the 1960s and "Wheel of Fortune" in the 1970s. After they had become the hottest game shows on television, Griffin sold the rights to Coca Cola's Columbia Pictures Television Unit for $250 million in 1986, retaining a share of the profits.

"My father was a visionary," Griffin's son, Tony Griffin, said in a statement issued Sunday. "He loved business and continued his many projects and holdings even while hospitalized."

When Griffin entered a hospital a month ago, he was working on the first week of production of a new syndicated game show, "Merv Griffin's Crosswords," his son said.

Griffin was also a longtime friend of former President Reagan and his wife, Nancy.

"This is heartbreaking, not just for those of us who loved Merv personally, but for everyone around the world who has known Merv through his music, his television shows and his business," Nancy Reagan said in a statement.

She said Griffin "was there for me every day after Ronnie died" in 2004.

"Wheel of Fortune" host Pat Sajak said he had lost "a dear friend."

"He meant so much to my life, and it's hard to imagine it without him," Sajak said.

For several years, Griffin was frequently seen in the company of actress Eva Gabor, who died in 1995.

"I'm very upset at the news. He was a very close friend of ours, a good friend of mine and a good friend of Eva's," Gabor's sister, Zsa Zsa Gabor, told The Associated Press by phone Sunday. "He was just a wonderful, wonderful man."

Griffin started putting the proceeds from selling "Jeopardy" and "Wheel" in treasury bonds, stocks and other investments, but went into real estate and other ventures because "I was never so bored in my life."

"I said `I'm not going to sit around and clip coupons for the rest of my life,'" he recalled in 1989. "That's when Barron Hilton said `Merv, do you want to buy the Beverly Hilton?' I couldn't believe it."

Griffin bought the slightly passe hotel for $100.2 million and completely refurbished it for $25 million. Then he made a move for control of Resorts International, which operated hotels and casinos from Atlantic City to the Caribbean.

That touched off a feud with real estate tycoon Donald Trump. Griffin eventually acquired Resorts for $240 million, even though Trump had held 80 percent of the voting stock.

"I love the gamesmanship," he told Life magazine in 1988. "This may sound strange, but it parallels the game shows I've been involved in."

In recent years, Griffin also rated frequent mentions in the sports pages as a successful race horse owner. His colt Stevie Wonderboy, named for entertainer Stevie Wonder, won the $1.5 million Breeders' Cup Juvenile in 2005.

In 1948, Freddy Martin hired Griffin to join his band at Los Angeles' Coconut Grove at $150 a week. With Griffin doing the singing, the band had a smash hit with "I've Got a Lovely Bunch of Cocoanuts," a 1949 novelty song sung in a cockney accent.

Doris Day and her producer husband, Marty Melcher, saw the band in Las Vegas and recommended Griffin to Warner Bros., which offered a contract. After a bit in "By the Light of the Silvery Moon," starring Day and Gordon MacRae, he had a bigger role with Kathryn Grayson in "So This Is Love." But after a few more trivial roles, he asked out of his contract.

In 1954, Griffin went to New York where he appeared in a summer replacement musical show on CBS-TV, a revival of "Finian's Rainbow," and a music show on CBS radio. He followed with a few TV game show hosting jobs, notably "Play Your Hunch," which premiered in 1958 and ran through the early 1960s. His glibness led to stints as substitute for Jack Paar on "Tonight."

When Paar retired in 1962, Griffin was considered a prime candidate to replace him. Johnny Carson was chosen instead. NBC gave Griffin a daytime version of "Tonight," but he was canceled for being "too sophisticated" for the housewife audience.

Westinghouse Broadcasting introduced "The Merv Griffin Show" in 1965 on syndicated TV. Griffin never underestimated the intelligence of his audience, offering such figures as philosopher Bertrand Russell, cellist Pablo Casals and Pulitzer Prize-winning writer-philosopher-historians Will and Ariel Durant as well as movie stars and entertainers.

CBS tried to challenge Carson with a late-night show starring Griffin, but nothing stopped Carson and Griffin returned to Westinghouse.

A lifelong crossword puzzle fan, Griffin devised a game show, "Word for Word," in 1963. It faded after one season, then his wife, Julann, suggested another show.

"Julann's idea was a twist on the usual question-answer format of the quiz shows of the Fifties," he wrote in his autobiography "Merv." "Her idea was to give the contestants the answer, and they had to come up with the appropriate question."

"Jeopardy" started in 1964 and "Wheel of Fortune" was begun in 1975.

Mervyn Edward Griffin Jr. was born in San Mateo, south of San Francisco on July 6, 1925, the son of a stockbroker. An aunt, Claudia Robinson, taught him to play piano at age 4, and he soon was staging shows on the back porch.

"Every Saturday I had a show, recruiting all the kids in the block as either stagehands, actors and audience, or sometimes all three," he wrote in his 1980 autobiography. "I was the producer, always the producer."

After studying at San Mateo Junior College and the University of San Francisco, Griffin quit school to apply for a job as pianist at KFRC radio in San Francisco. The station needed a vocalist instead. He auditioned and was hired.

Griffin attracted the interest of RKO studio boss William Dozier and his wife, Joan Fontaine.

At the time, Griffin weighed 235 pounds. "As soon as I walked in their hotel room, I could see their faces fall," he recalled. Shortly afterward, singer Joan Edwards told him: "Your voice is terrific, but the blubber has got to go." Griffin slimmed down, and he spent the rest of his life adding and taking off weight.

Griffin and Julann Elizabeth Wright were married in 1958, and their son, Anthony, was born the following year. They divorced in 1973 because of "irreconcilable differences."

He never remarried.

Besides his son, Griffin is survived by his daughter-in-law, Tricia, and two grandchildren.

The family said an invitation-only funeral Mass will be held at a later date at The Church of the Good Shepherd in Beverly Hills.