Remembering James Agee


“You can go home, it’s good to go home again, but you never really get all the way home again in your life.”

Those words come from James Agee’s Pulitzer Prize winning masterpiece, A Death in the Family.

This luminous talent mastered a multiplicity of writing forms in his brief 45-year life: poetry, book and film criticism, journalism, and screenwriting all came naturally to Agee.

Born November 27, 1909, Agee tragically died May 16, 1955 of a heart attack while riding in a taxi — he was on his way to a doctor’s appointment.

Agee’s name will always be associated with other self-destructive artists whose torment and addictions burned them out far too early — Edgar Allan Poe, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Charlie Parker, Truman Capote, Jackson Pollock, Whitney Houston — the list is long and sad.

A final message from James Agee: “Nobody who has ever lived is specially privileged…things as bad as this and a hell of a lot worse have happened to millions of people before and …they’ve come through it and you will too.”



In 1942, a generation before Kael gained fame for her New Yorker reviews, Agee (pronounced Ay-jee) signed on as a movie critic for both Time and the Nation, penning reviews often more memorable than the movies that inspired them. The Agee style—intensely literary and endlessly alert to the textual nuances of an emerging medium—was a striking departure from the prevailing movie coverage, which often seemed little more than a willing arm of the studio publicity mill. When Agee died in 1955 at the age of forty-five, fans of his film work immediately began clamoring for a book that would preserve his best reviews within covers, and Agee on Film appeared in 1958. The book’s publication affirmed the stature of film criticism as its own art form, creating a standard that subsequent generations of reviewers have tried to match.

Decades after Agee’s passing, the idea of film reviewing as something intellectually valuable seems thoroughly mainstream. But when Agee was making his way as a journalist in the 1930s and 1940s, few editors were interested in devoting “think pieces” to something so seemingly transient as a Hollywood flick. In fighting for film’s place in the pantheon of modern culture, Agee was defying convention, even at the risk of stalling his career.

In his other writing projects as well, Agee was reliably rebellious. Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, his almost maddeningly obscure account of life among Depression-era Alabama sharecroppers, was a commercial flop when it was released in 1941, although the book now stands as a landmark piece of social documentary. Far more accessible, but no less visionary, is Agee’s most popular book, the posthumously published and largely autobiographical novel A Death in the Family. The current vogue in memoirs about loss, such as Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking and Joyce Carol Oates’s A Widow’s Story, extends a tradition greatly popularized by Agee’s 1957 roman à clef, which uses beautifully poetic prose to recall how the sudden death of Agee’s father radically altered his family’s future.

In addition to reviewing films, Agee was also a groundbreaking screenwriter, adapting Davis Grubb’s novel The Night of the Hunter into the vividly creepy 1955 movie of the same name, and also helping to adapt C. S. Forester’s novel The African Queen into the 1951 film classic.

The Library of America’s collection of Agee’s work spans two volumes: Agee: Film Writing and Selected Journalism and Agee: Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, A Death in the Family, and Shorter Fiction.

As a critic of films—and an occasional writer on movie projects—Agee favored productions that seemed to indulge intuition and surprise rather than careful calculation. “Movies are made for respectable people now,” he lamented in 1950. “(They) were better when made for lowbrows and made with instinct and delight.”

If Agee liked to think of the world cinematically, it’s possibly because his life, so touched by deep tragedy, soaring success, and wretched excess, often seemed like a movie in itself.

James Rufus Agee was born on November 27, 1909, in Knoxville, Tennessee, the son of a working-class father and a mother with a more socially connected background. The contrast informed Agee’s view of the world throughout his life. Later, despite a résumé that included a Harvard degree and positions at the top of national journalism, Agee retained a populist sympathy for the have-nots, embracing an aggressive brand of liberalism that sometimes compromised his professional aspirations.

When Agee was only six years old, his father died in a car accident, leaving an absence that would intensely haunt him the rest of his life. Not long after the loss, Agee was sent to an Episcopal boarding school in Sewanee, Tennessee, where he developed an enduring friendship with  Father James Harold Flye, a sensitive and intellectual cleric who became Agee’s surrogate father. When he was sixteen, Agee was sent to Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire, an elite boarding school that proved a culture clash for the unconventional teen.

“He was a Southern boy of a complex background, already in his own way a populist, an earthy, crunchy, idiosyncratic, rebellious—very rebellious—young man,” writes Robert Coles, a prominent social thinker and Agee admirer. “He arrived at the staid New England private school at a time when it was much stiffer and more exclusionary, almost exclusively populated by wealthy East Coast scions of privilege.”

Shortly after his arrival at Exeter, Agee began an affair with a forty-year-old librarian, the early chapter of a libertine sex life that would, by the time of his death, include three marriages and several extramarital relationships. By his high school years, Agee was also a heavy drinker and smoker, two habits that further complicated his personal life and almost certainly shortened it.

Along with his darker tendencies, Agee’s gifts as a writer were emerging, too, as he led the school’s magazine and literary society and churned out a steady stream of stories, criticism, and poetry. The movies had also captured young Agee’s attention, a passion he confessed to Exeter alumnus and Yale undergraduate Dwight Macdonald. “To me, the great thing about movies,” Agee told Macdonald in 1927, “is that it’s a brand new field. I don’t see how much more can be done with writing or the stage. In fact, every kind of recognized ‘art’ has been worked pretty nearly to the limit. Of course, great things will be done in all of them, but, possibly excepting music, I don’t see how they can avoid being at least in part imitations. As for the movies, however, their possibilities are infinite.”

Although he was an indifferent student, Agee’s writing talent secured him strong recommendations for admission to Harvard, where he continued to refine his literary technique. Ever the experimentalist, Agee told Flye that he aspired “to combine what Chekhov did with what Shakespeare did—that is, to move from the dim, rather eventless beauty of (Chekhov) to huge, geometric plots such as Lear . . . I’ve thought of inventing a sort of amphibious style—prose that would run into poetry when the occasion demanded poetic expression.”

In a more casual mood, Agee penned a parody of Time magazine that would be followed, ironically enough, by a postgraduation job working for Time publisher Henry Luce, who hired Agee to work on a sister publication, Fortune. Bohemian and left of center, Agee seemed an odd fit for the staff of a business publication created by Luce, the conservative publisher. But over the years, Luce would bring a number of liberal writers into his stable, including Macdonald, Archibald MacLeish, and Keynesian economist John Kenneth Galbraith. Despite the political divide within the office, Luce benefited from the talent he had assembled, and his writers, in turn, enjoyed well-paying positions. In 1932, when Agee started at Fortune, the economic downturn had made such jobs an especially coveted prize.

Staff writers also stood to benefit from Luce’s deft editorial pen, Galbraith would recall many years later in a fond remembrance of his days at Fortune. “No one who worked for him ever again escaped the feeling that he was there looking over one’s shoulder,” Galbraith remembered. “In his hand was a pencil; down on each page one could expect, any moment, a long swishing wiggle accompanied by the comment: ‘This can go.’ Invariably it could. It was written to please the author and not the reader.”

Agee, though, was more resistant to editorial direction—and, it seemed, direction of any kind. Macdonald would later recall Agee’s tense sessions with Luce, in which Luce attempted, often in vain, to temper Agee’s prolix narratives. At one point, an exasperated Agee fantasized about shooting Luce.

Beyond issues of editorial judgment, Agee proved, in countless other ways, to be a decidedly unconventional Luce employee. “As Luce and his magazine were moving into the Chrysler Building in midtown Manhattan,” Coles writes, “the legend of James Agee was becoming known to the literary community of Manhattan: the enormously talented writer who drank a lot, slept around, and who would write while listening to Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony so loudly and so often that people worried whether the Chrysler Building would withstand the orchestral blasts.”

But the odd-couple relationship between Agee and his publisher, whatever its limitations, coincided with what was perhaps Agee’s most fruitful period as a writer. For Fortune, Agee wrote pieces on everything from orchids to the Tennessee Valley Authority. In the bargain between Agee’s poetic largesse and the more practical sensibility of Luce’s house style, one can find magazine journalism that, like the newspaper reportage of Charles Dickens, crackles with the wry intensity of literary ambition.

Here’s how Agee opens his 1934 Fortune piece on cockfighting:


You are a gentleman. You have a taste for sport (most likely horses), leisure to indulge it, and an estate. One quiet morning you walk down to your stables. As you come around the side of the barn, you hear a soft but violent fluttering of wings, an agitated hissing, a passionate exclaiming of low voices. You look down, and there are your Negroes (if you happen to be a southern gentleman) crouched in a wide circle on the ground, leaning on bent knuckles, peering into the center of the ring. They are watching two birds, large and brightly colored, that cling together beak to beak with arched necks, dancing up and down, while their wings whir and they slash at each other viciously, rapidly, with their spurs. The birds are gamecocks, most ferocious of all domestic creatures, and their dance is fatal—it can end only in death.


Notice how, even within the compass of a magazine article, Agee is already polishing his skills as a screenwriter. The opening sounds like stage direction, followed by a plot synopsis, as if Agee is writing
a pitch for a movie project.

To read Agee is to be reminded that he thought in pictures, which is why, one gathers, he was such a perceptive movie critic. His review
of The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek, from 1944, promises to be around longer than the movie itself. “The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek,” he begins,


is a little like taking a nun on a roller coaster. Its ordinary enough subject—the difficulties of a small-town girl, pregnant, without a husband—is treated with the catnip giddiness to be expected from Writer-Director Preston Sturges. . . . The chief failures are his, too. Some of the fun is painfully unfunny, because it is like a joker who outroars his audience’s reaction. Some of the pity is not pitiful because it is smashed before it has a chance to crystallize. Most of the finest human and comic potentialities of the story are lost because Sturges is so much less interested in his characters than in using them as hobbyhorses for his own wit.

Agee was an early enthusiast of Alfred Hitchcock, praising Hitchcock’s 1944 movie, Lifeboat, as “one of the most ambitious films in years,” and comparing it to the poetry of E. E. Cummings. He was also a friend and champion of Charlie Chaplin, lionizing Chaplin and other silent-era comics in a lengthy retrospective for Life in 1949. Agee persuasively affirmed the value of Chaplin and his contemporary comic screen actors, even as the talkies were nudging their legacies into the background.

As Agee progressed in film reviewing, influential readers took notice. Among his admirers was the poet W. H. Auden, who wrote a glowing fan letter to the Nation in 1944. “In my opinion, his column is the most remarkable event in American journalism today,” Auden said of Agee. “What he says is of such profound interest, expressed with such extraordinary wit and felicity, and so transcends its ostensible—to me, rather unimportant—subject, that his articles belong in that very select class—the music critiques of Berlioz and Shaw are the only other members I know—of newspaper work which has permanent literary value.”

In literature as in film, Agee consistently favored artists who took risks, even if it made them less accessible to the public at large. In the book reviews he filed for Time, Agee’s heart quickened when he read writers who embraced experiment: Aldous Huxley, William Faulkner, Gertrude Stein, James Joyce, Virginia Woolf.

Agee’s most audacious attempt at avant-garde expression involved his assignment by Fortune in 1936 to write a story about the struggles of sharecroppers. Agee traveled to Alabama with photographer Walker Evans, whose achingly beautiful pictures of poor farming families are profoundly moving precisely because of their striking simplicity. In Evans’s haunting, black-and-white images, as in the best documentary photography, there’s no obvious sense of mediation between the subject and the viewer. The gaunt but resilient faces of Evans’s sharecroppers confront us directly, with inch-close immediacy. Evans tends to dissolve into the background of this meeting between those who are seen and those who see them, as sublimely quiet as a stage hand parting a curtain. Evans’s presence in this equation is discernible, but subtle. In some of his most memorable images, Evans’s sharecroppers stand or sit for him as if posing for a formal studio photograph. Their posture, which mimics the rituals of refined family portraits, only serves to underscore their ragged clothing, worn faces, and wearying poverty. What Evans seems to be saying, without quite saying so, is that these sharecroppers are worthy of dignity, too, in spite of their estrangement from economic promise.

But if Evans’s pictures are a study in sublimation, Agee’s accompanying text about the sharecroppers seems as much about Agee as the rural folk he’s supposed to be chronicling. With the title of Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, which comes from a passage in the apocrypha, an ancient group of texts excluded from the Bible, Agee sounds the keynote of a narrative dense with literary allusion, riddles, and cosmic speculation. To get a flavor of the book, consider Agee’s disclaimer, in which he says that although his nominal subject is Alabama sharecroppers, his real goal “is to recognize the stature of a portion of unimagined existence, and to contrive techniques proper to its recording, communication, analysis, and defense. More essentially, this is an independent inquiry into certain normal predicaments of human divinity.”

Not surprisingly, Agee’s Fortune editors balked at his approach, and the story never made it into the magazine’s pages. Agee and Walker eventually expanded the project and got it published as a book, but the volume sold only six hundred copies after its 1941 release and was quickly remaindered. For the most part, readers either embrace Agee’s prose in Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, or they simply endure it.

Among the fans is Coles, who celebrates Let Us Now Praise Famous Men in Handing One Another Along, a 2010 book in which he reflects on literature that’s deeply shaped his moral sensibility. When reading Agee’s narrative, says Coles, “I think of Agee as singing in an opera—a sustained, passionate oratorio. I think of the long discourses of the poets of Greece and Rome. . . .”

But even some admirers of Agee’s Alabama odyssey concede that his travelogue is an acquired taste. Novelist David Madden, whose enthusiasm for Agee has slowly grown into “sustained admiration” over the years, admits that, at first, passages in Let Us Now Praise Famous Men struck him as “precious, mannered, pompous, the tone as condescending.”

A much greater critical consensus has gathered around A Death in the Family, the novel Agee was finishing at the time of his own death, and which was posthumously awarded the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1958. In a story that can often read like a documentary account of Agee’s own childhood, he seems to reconcile his literary expansiveness with the more linear patterns of traditional fiction, creating lovely sentences that quickly invite comparisons to Proust.

“Knoxville: Summer 1915,” a straight autobiographical essay that was written and published years before A Death in the Family and later employed for the novel’s opening, is perhaps the most beautiful evocation ever written of summer as seen through the eyes of a child. Here, Agee describes the evening routine:


Supper was at six and was over by half past. There was still daylight, shining softly and with a tarnish, like the lining of a shell; and the carbon lamps lifted at the corners were on in the light, and the locusts were started, and the fire flies were out, and a few frogs were flopping in the dewy grass, by the time the fathers and the children came out.


The prose of Agee’s boyhood remembrance proved so lyrical that Samuel Barber set a section of “Knoxville: Summer 1915” to music. It was a notable nod to the genius of Agee, who wouldn’t live to see the enduring critical reception he obviously craved.

On May 16, 1955, while putting the last touches on his novel about a family prematurely robbed of its father, Agee died of a heart attack in a New York City taxicab, leaving a wife and children behind. He was a few months shy of his forty-sixth birthday.

If Agee’s life were, indeed, a movie script, then Agee the critic would no doubt have dismissed it as overwritten.




Daphne du Maurier

Daphne du Maurier passed away more than 30 years ago, yet her work is still very much alive. Her books are in print and the Netflix adaptation of Rebecca has sparked renewed worldwide interest.

When asked why her main character, the narrator, in Rebecca has no first name or maiden name, du Maurier said she could not think of one. “I heard later from Joan Fontaine, who starred in the first Rebecca, that Alfred Hitchcock, the director, referred to the narrator on the set as Daphne…perhaps he was not so far from the truth.”

Her urgent, gothic style was unique. The New York Times reported that she was asked if one of her novels was a boy-meets-girl story — she replied, “No, it’s ghoul meets goon.”

Daphne du Maurier, May 13, 1907—April 19, 1989.


OBITUARY: Daphne Du Maurier also known as ‘Lady Browning’ was a British writer and playwright born on 13th May 1907 in London. She belonged to a creative family where her father and mother both were actors, her uncle was a magazine editor and her grandfather was a writer. This became the base for her literary talent as she started writing when she was very young. As a child she knew how to stay in the limelight having met many celebrities because of her parents’ career. At first she was not considered as intellectual as other famous authors such as George Elliot and Iris Murdoch and her work was seen as somewhat ‘old aged’. But now Maurier is recognized as one of the most brilliant writers and is called ‘the mistress of suspense’. She was home schooled by well-educated governesses and later attended the elite schools of London and Paris.

Because her childhood contained many literary and artistic experiences, it was not a surprise that Du Maurier had a very vivid imagination and a profound love for writing and reading. Her first novel ‘The Loving Spirit’ was published in 1931. It was after reading this very novel that Lieutenant-Colonel Frederick also called ‘Boy Browning’ sailed all the way to London to meet the author of this book. They got married the next year and remained married for the next 33 years till Boy died in 1965. The marriage had its share of difficulties because of Daphne du Maurier’s secret bisexuality however she denied this fact.

Du Maurier’s other works are ‘I’ll Never Be Young Again’ (1932), ‘The Progress of Julius’ (1933), ‘Jamaica Inn’ (1936), ‘Rebecca’ (1938), ‘Frenchman’s Creek’ (1941), ‘Mary Anne’ (1954), ‘The Scapegoat’ (1957), ‘The Glass-Blowers’ (1963) and ‘Rule Britannia’ (1972). She also wrote many short stories including ‘Come Wind, Come Weather’ (1940), ‘Early Stories’ (1959), ‘The Breaking Point’ (1959), ‘Not After Midnight’ (1971) and ‘The Rendezvous and Other Stories’ (1980).

Daphne du Maurier also wrote three plays. The first was an adaptation of her novel ‘Rebecca’ that was published in 1938. The play was released on 5th March 1940. The second play was ‘The Years Between’ that opened on 10th January 1945 and the third one was called ‘September Tide’ which first opened on 15th December 1948.

She was given the honor of being the ‘Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire’ in the ‘Queen’s Birthday Honors’ however she never really used this title. Later on in her life Du Maurier also wrote some non-fiction work. ‘Gerald’ was published in 1934, ‘The Du Mauriers’ in 1937, ‘The Young George du Maurier’ in 1951, ‘The Infernal World of Branwell Bronte’ in 1960 and ‘Growing Pains’ in 1970. Many of her works were made into film adaptations such as ‘My Cousin Rachel’, ‘The Birds’, ‘Jamaica Inn’, ‘Hungry Hill’ and ‘Frenchman’s Creek’.

Du Maurier had a ‘romantic’ style of writing although she did not like being called as a romance novelist. She received the Grand Master Awards from the ‘Mystery Writers of America’. She died on 19th April 1989 in Cornwall, England, UK at the age of 81.


Whitey Ford

For those who remember major league baseball in the 1960’s, Whitey Ford stood out among pitchers because of his cerebral style.  Ford knew how to pick up apart the opposition not with power, but with intelligence.

On the day he was pitching, Ford would always watch the other team take batting practice.

In his autobiography, “Slick,” he remembered watching Chicago White Sox batters in practice all “going with the pitch,” that is, not pulling the ball for a home run.  It was not their usual style of hitting.  Ford guessed correctly that Sox manager Paul Richards had instructed his batters to do just that — so, during the game, Ford threw inside to all the hitters which nullified the Sox strategy and earned the Yankees an easy win.

Whitey Ford’s 10 World Series victories is still a record, as is his .690 winning percentage for pitchers with 200 or more victories in the 20th century.

His “thinking man’s approach” was copied by another Hall of Famer, Greg Maddux.

Whitey Ford, number 16, RIP.


Whitey Ford, the Yankees’ Hall of Fame left-hander who was celebrated as the Chairman of the Board for his stylish pitching and big-game brilliance on the ball clubs that dominated baseball in the 1950s and early ’60s, died on Thursday night at his home in Lake Success, N.Y., on Long Island. He was 91.

The Yankees announced his death.

Pitching for 11 pennant-winners and six World Series champions, Ford won 236 games, the most of any Yankee, and had a career winning percentage of .690, the best among pitchers with 200 or more victories in the 20th century.

At his death, Ford was the second-oldest surviving Hall of Famer, behind the former Dodger manager Tommy Lasorda, who is 93. His death came six days after that of his fellow Hall of Fame pitcher Bob Gibson of the St. Louis Cardinals.


He was a scrappy, rambunctious, fair-haired son of New York City — hence the nickname — and through the decades a beloved one, as loyal to Yankee pinstripes as his most die-hard fans. “I’ve been a Yankee fan since I was 5 years old,” Ford said at his Hall of Fame induction at Cooperstown, N.Y., in 1974.

He was among the biggest names on Yankee teams featuring Joe DiMaggioMickey Mantle, Yogi Berra, Phil RizzutoRoger Maris and his 1950s pitching mates Allie ReynoldsVic Raschi and Eddie Lopat. He survived all of them. And he joined Lou Gehrig, DiMaggio, Mantle and Rizzuto among the revered figures who spent their entire playing careers with the Yankees. The team retired his No. 16 and mounted his plaque beside theirs in Monument Park at Yankee Stadium.

Ford had the competitive advantage of pitching for dauntingly good teams. But his prowess was never seriously questioned as he compiled an impressive 2.75 earned run average in 3,170 innings.

“He could throw any pitch, any time, for a strike,” Brooks Robinson, the Baltimore Orioles’ Hall of Famer, was quoted as saying by Fay Vincent, the former baseball commissioner, in the oral history “We Would Have Played for Nothing” (2008). “He had great players behind him, but Whitey Ford was the master.”

The Three Musketeers

At 5 feet 10 inches and 180 pounds, Ford seldom overpowered batters. But in his 16 seasons he mastered them with an assortment of pitches thrown with varying speeds and arm motions and delivered just where he wanted them. “If it takes 27 outs to win, who’s going to get them out more ways than Mr. Ford?” the longtime Yankee manager Casey Stengel once said.

Methodical on the mound, Ford was irrepressible off it. He joined with Mantle and Billy Martin for late nights on the town, inspiring Stengel to call them the Three Musketeers. Mantle, too, entered the Hall of Fame in 1974, and at the induction ceremony he was asked about the chemistry behind the friendship between him, the country boy from Oklahoma, and Ford, who grew up on the streets of Queens. “We both liked Scotch,” he said.

“In those early years it was three of us — me, Whitey and Billy Martin,” Mantle said, adding, “They were both brash, outspoken guys, and I could stay in the background.”

With the passing of DiMaggio and Mantle, Old-Timers’ Day at Yankee Stadium became very much the Whitey and Yogi show. Ford and Berra, his catcher and baseball’s philosopher, were the celebrity elders of the hour. (Berra died in 2015 at 90.)

It was in retirement, too, that Ford acknowledged what had been widely suspected: He sometimes doctored the baseball. He said he created “mud” balls by mixing saliva and dirt; used a concoction of baby oil, turpentine and resin to make his fingers sticky; and had a ring made with a specially attached rasp to cut baseballs, all to make a pitch break unexpectedly and produce strikeouts or ground balls — and to help win championships.

Ford held a number of still-standing World Series records, among them 33⅔ consecutive innings of scoreless pitching. He was savvy from the start, a puzzle that batters struggled to solve.

Walt Dropo, the slugging Boston Red Sox first baseman who beat Ford out for Rookie of the Year honors, remembered facing Ford that first season. “Right away, I could see this guy was going to be trouble,” Dropo recalled in “Bombers” (2002), edited by Richard Lally. “He was like a master chess player who used his brain to take the bat right out of my hands. You’d start thinking along with him, and then Whitey had you because he never started you off with the same pitch in any one sequence.

“He could start you with a fastball inside, a curveball outside, then reverse that, or even start you with a changeup. He played games with everybody, every hitter I ever talked to. He made them hit his pitch, and it was usually something they didn’t like.”

A Hometown Boy

Edward Charles Ford was born on Oct. 21, 1928, on the East Side of Manhattan, the only child of Jim and Edna Ford. His father worked for Con Edison and played on its semipro baseball team, and his mother was a bookkeeper at an A&P grocery.

He grew up in the Astoria section of Queens, idolizing Joe DiMaggio. He played first base for Manhattan High School of Aviation Trades, which he attended because his neighborhood high school, William Cullen Bryant, did not have a baseball team.

In April 1946, his senior year, he attended a tryout at Yankee Stadium. The Yankee scout Paul Krichell felt that Ford couldn’t hit well enough to be a first baseman, but noticed that he had a strong arm. After pitching a few innings near the end of his high school season, Ford turned in an outstanding summer as a pitcher for the 34th Avenue Boys, a Queens sandlot team sponsored by a beer garden, and in October 1946 the Yankees gave him a $7,000 bonus as a pitching prospect.

After three and a half years in the minors, Ford made his Yankee debut on July 1, 1950. Slim and blond, he was Eddie Ford back then. Lefty Gomez, the former Yankee pitcher who managed in the team’s farm system, had called him Whitey, but the name hadn’t stuck yet.

Tutored by Jim Turner, the pitching coach, and by Lopat, Ford won nine straight games before he was beaten on a home run by the Philadelphia Athletics’ Sam Chapman.

After the Yankees won the first three games of the 1950 World Series against the Philadelphia Phillies’ Whiz Kids, Stengel gave Ford a start at Yankee Stadium. He was within one out of a shutout when Gene Woodling, the Yankee left fielder, dropped a fly ball, allowing two runs to score. Stengel eventually took Ford out of the game, to the displeasure of Yankee fans, and Reynolds finished off a 5-2 Yankee victory and a World Series sweep.

Ford missed the 1951 and 1952 seasons while in the Army, but returned with an 18-6 season in 1953. As he remembered it, Yankee catcher Elston Howard gave him the nickname Chairman of the Board around the mid-’50s.

Ford kept rolling along, winning 53 games from 1954 to 1956.

Then came an infamous night in Yankee lore. In May 1957, Ford and Mantle joined with a few teammates to celebrate Martin’s 29th birthday at the Copacabana nightclub. A patron wound up on the floor with a broken nose and accused Hank Bauer, the Yankees’ strapping right fielder, of decking him. Bauer denied it, and no charges were filed, but the Yankees fined all the players who were there for the embarrassing headline-making episode. It was never clear who clobbered the customer, and Berra famously explained, “Nobody did nuthin’ to nobody.” But Martin was soon banished to the lowly Kansas City Athletics.

In April 1958, to mark the start of another baseball season, Ford did a star turn with Berra, Mantle and first baseman Bill Skowron on Ed Sullivan’s popular CBS variety show with a rendition of “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.” They were accompanied by Jack Norworth, who wrote the lyrics in 1908.

The Yankees concluded the season by defeating the Milwaukee Braves in the World Series.

A World Series Maven

The winning ways continued for Ford into the early 1960s.

He was at his best in the World Series, his records including most victories (10) and most strikeouts (94) along with his 33⅔ straight scoreless innings.

He threw two shutouts against the Pirates in the 1960 World Series, though his pitching was overshadowed by Bill Mazeroski’s Series-winning home run for Pittsburgh in Game 7. He pitched another shutout in Game 1 of the 1961 World Series against the Cincinnati Reds and pitched five scoreless innings in Game 4 before a reliever came in. The Yankees won that Series in five games, with Ford’s total of 32 consecutive scoreless innings in World Series play eclipsing the record of 29⅔ innings set by Babe Ruth for the Boston Red Sox in 1916 and 1918.

Ralph Houk, who replaced Stengel as the Yankees’ manager in 1961, used Ford more frequently than Stengel had, and Johnny Sain, who became the pitching coach that year, added to Ford’s repertoire by teaching him to throw a slider. Ford won 14 consecutive games, posted a 25-4 record and captured the Cy Young Award as baseball’s best pitcher.

In the 1961 All-Star Game at the San Francisco Giants’ Candlestick Park, Ford delivered what might have been his most confounding single pitch.

Horace Stoneham, the Giants’ owner, bet Ford that he couldn’t get Willie Mays out, as Ford told it in “Whitey and Mickey” (1977), a joint Ford-Mantle memoir written with Joseph Durso of The New York Times. A few hundred dollars were at stake.

Ford recalled that when he faced Mays in the first inning, “I threw Willie the biggest spitball you ever saw” and “it snapped the hell out of sight, and the umpire shot up his right hand for strike three.”

Ford extended his World Series scoreless string to 33⅔ innings before the Giants’ Jose Pagan put down a bunt single that scored Mays in the second inning of the 1962 World Series opener, at San Francisco. But Ford won that game, his final World Series triumph.

He was 24-7 in 1963, his last outstanding season.

Ford added pitching-coach duties in 1964, when Berra became the manager and Houk was promoted to general manager. But pitching against the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series opener, he developed numbness in his left hand and departed in the sixth inning.


He underwent surgery in November for a blocked artery, but that procedure was a temporary solution, and he continued to experience circulatory problems pitching in cool weather the next season. He lost his pitching-coach job when Johnny Keane, formerly the St. Louis Cardinals’ manager, took over from Berra.

Ford had a 16-13 record in 1965, but he was plagued by arm problems in 1966. He had a 2-5 record when he underwent bypass surgery in August to provide a permanent cure for his circulatory problem. But he also had a bad elbow, and he retired in May 1967 after going 2-4.

Ford had an earned run average below 3.00 in 11 separate seasons and pitched 45 shutouts. He was an eight-time All-Star and posted the American League’s lowest earned run average in 1956 and 1958. He led the league in victories three times (1955, 1961 and 1963), and he had the best winning percentage three times (1956, 1961 and 1963).

He had a career record of 236-106 with a 2.75 earned run average.

Ford’s survivors include his wife, Joan (Foran) Ford; their son Eddie; their daughter, Sally Ann Clancy; and grandchildren. Another son, Tommy, died in 1999.


After his pitching days, Ford served briefly as the Yankees’ first-base coach and again as pitching coach. The Yankees retired his No. 16 in 1974, shortly before he was inducted into the Hall of Fame. He appeared at Yankee spring training camps after that as a pitching instructor.

Ford was on hand in September 2008 when the Yankees played their final game at the old Stadium. He joined with Don Larsen, famous for pitching a perfect game in the World Series, in scooping dirt from the pitchers’ mound in a pre-game ceremony and then joined with Berra to reminisce with the ESPN broadcasters Jon Miller and Joe Morgan. (Larsen died in January at 90.)

Ford and Berra reprised their cameos as the favorite old-time Yankees when they helped Manager Joe Girardi distribute World Series championship rings to Yankee players at the team’s 2010 home opener.

But the biggest day of the retirement years had come on Aug. 20, 2000, when it was Whitey Ford Day at Yankee Stadium. Ford’s No. 16 was imprinted near the first and third-base foul lines, and former teammates paid tribute.

“I’ve been a Yankee for 53 years,” he said then, “and I’ll be a Yankee forever.”

Correction: Oct. 9, 2020

An earlier version of this obituary misstated the age of the former Dodger manager Tommy Lasorda, who is the oldest surviving member of the Baseball Hall of Fame. He is 93, not 92.

Correction: Oct. 9, 2020

An earlier version of this obituary misstated the surname of the man who wrote the lyrics to the song “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.” He was Jack Norworth, not Norwood.


Marilyn Hurtt

When Marilyn Hurtt passed away suddenly on August 7, 2020, the Dallas/Fort Worth funeral community was hit with a haymaker right on the chin. Marilyn had been generously helping families for 50 years — she was a much respected presence in this field.

For those of us who regularly interacted with her, Marilyn was a true professional who obviously loved her work. Her formidable intelligence was matched by her diligence: she was in command of the details.

A word about her wit, Marilyn had a dry sense of humor and could deliver a punchline so well that you would laugh about it for days.

Marilyn’s favorite CD was Willie Nelson’s Healing Hands of Time. Listen to it, her big heart is reflected in the songs.

Marilyn Hurtt mattered. She will be missed.


Marilyn Munroe Hurtt was born May 31, 1938 to H. W. and Inez Wilmut Munroe in Lancaster, Texas.  She lived in Lancaster, the family moved to Dallas and she attended schools in Oak Cliff and graduated from Sunset High School. Her father was a Dallas ISD principal and administrator, so Marilyn began helping him with filing and office work from the age of twelve.  The family was very active in Tyler Street United Methodist Church.  She passed from this life peacefully, early Friday evening, August 7, 2020 in Dallas, Texas, still active at the business she has owned since 1988.

Marilyn was preceded in death by her parents, brother: Thomas D. Munroe in 2015, and her son: William T. “Bill” Ernest in 2008.

Her survivors include her husband: Michael B. Hurtt of DeSoto, her sister: Karen and husband Dr. Dick A. Pafford of Bedford, TX, her grandson: Lucas B. Ernest, sister in law: Sara Munroe, nieces and their husbands: Lynda and Scott Soape of Georgetown and Marsa and Roger Cardinale of Dallas.  Great nieces and nephews and their spouses:  Taylor Soape and Dr. Ismael Rodriguez of New York City, Jonathan Soape of San Antonio,  Mark and Kimberly Pafford of Bedford, TX and  Brian and Andi Pafford of Coppell, TX, great  nieces and nephews: Andrew, Colin  and  Brittani Cardinale, Madilyn, Mathew, Max Pafford and  Reed and Claire Pafford.  Marilyn is also survived by some very  special cousins including Mary Ann Viola (who is close like her sister), John Houston, Charles Wilmut, Ben Brownlee, Bill Lemmon, life-long friend, Betty Skinner, and her border collie: Suzy.

Marilyn was a true Texas lady, loving Dr. Pepper, chicken and dressing and blue bonnets. She had so many unique qualities, it is hard to describe.  First,  and always she was about family, making sure families got together, visited, and knew each other.  She gathered all of the  history and disseminated it to everyone.   So proper, classy, supportive, funny, she was someone you always wanted to talk with or ask for her help. She was driven, intelligent, involved and silently opinionated.  Marilyn was always doing something, never idle or watching tv. This was her story her entire life.  In 1988, Marilyn and Michael were able to purchase the funeral home in DeSoto that Otis West began in 1965 because of Nelda West and Pierce Monkres. For 32 years, Marilyn’s love for the community has not been only through funeral service, she was First Lady for the Mayor, volunteer, committee member and community advocate. Marilyn was always appropriate and ready to get involved.   Proverbs 31 vs 10-31 describes her person exactly.  If you ever knew her, had her help you, received one of her famous rum cakes, calendars, cards or flashlights, you saw the spark in her and the joy she drew from making our world a better place, and love she had for people.  Those of you that really knew Marilyn were aware of her “Happy Place” she went to recharge.  “Tranquility”, the farm  in Edom is beautiful country, a mirror lake, sunsets, donkeys, longhorns, deer, birds and especially hummingbirds.  Marilyn truly loved nature.

One of the nicest things repeatedly said about Marilyn is “She was like a Mother to Me,” and she loved the horn honks on Hampton Rd.

Her nephews and great nephews will serve as her pallbearers.

We would  like to acknowledge her special friends, funeral service professionals and suppliers she has loved by naming many of them as Honorary Pallbearers, including John David Kilgore (her adopted son and dedicated director), Karla Dickey, Shirley Banner, John Finley, Amanda Koch, Bradley Sutton, Warren Adams, Harry Brown, Brandon Blaylock, Terry Woodall, Teresa Hodges, Kent Adair, Tim Jeter, Ronald Hughes, Jr., John Brooks, Retha Brooks, Jesse Castro, Ray Ellison, Dwayne England, Sissy Keeling, Jewel Parrish, Wally and Vicki Hardin,  Mark Boyd, Greg Boyd, Allen Jordan, Nancy Barber, Dale Griess, Delilah Terry, Sherry Roundtree, Andy Reed, Scott McDonald, Frank West, Sandra Terry and many more too numerous to list going back to the sixties, seventies, eighties, and nineties, many having gone before, just to name a few.

Also, a special thanks to Bob Adams’ Pharmacy & Staff and Dr. Joe Phipps & Staff for all the love, care and friendships throughout the years.

Visitation for the Friends and Community will be from 12:00 Noon until 6:00 p.m. on Sunday, August 16, 2020 at West/Hurtt Funeral Home.

The Celebration of Marilyn’s Life will be at 11:00 a.m. on Monday, August 17, 2020 at Dallas First Church of the Nazarene, 825 N. Cockrell Hill Rd. @ Pleasant Run Rd., DeSoto, TX 75115 with Rev. Larry Williams and Rev. John B. Onstott, officiating.

After the Service a private interment will occur at Wheatland Cemetery in Dallas, TX for the family.

Marilyn had so many charities that she believed in, please make a difference by donating to the Charity of your choice, or her first choice would be the SPCA of Dallas.


***(The Tribute on Monday (8/17) will be shown live on the West/Hurtt Funeral Home Facebook page, then added to her obituary for easy access after the service)***


Sam Johnson

Former Representative Sam Johnson of Texas has passed away.  In a recent tribute, members of both parties remembered his heroism: he flew nearly 100 combat missions in Korea and Vietnam.  He spent seven years in the infamous Hanoi Hilton.  RIP Sam Johnson.


House leaders from both parties paid tribute to former Rep. Sam Johnson (R-Texas), who died at age 89 on Wednesday, holding a moment of silence on the House floor on Thursday.

Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) led the moment of silence, noting the broad bipartisan respect members have had for Johnson.

Thornberry praised Johnson — a fighter pilot in the Korean and Vietnam wars and 13-term congressman — for his dedication as a public servant, highlighting his experience as a veteran and a congressman, and the impact he made on the House.

Before the moment of silence, Thornberry said, “He was a fighter pilot and some of those fighter pilot traits came into everything he did, from how fast he drove across the highways of Texas, to the way he approached legislation.”

“Sam was a veteran of the Korean conflict and, of course, the Vietnam war. On his 25th combat mission in Vietnam, he was shot down, severely injured, and spent the next seven years as a prisoner of war in the prison known as the Hanoi Hilton,” he continued.

Thornberry also spoke of the “hellish conditions” that Johnson and his fellow prisoners endured, fighting to survive during their service.

“Madam Speaker, I know of no one in the house who was more universally admired across the chamber than Sam Johnson. He sacrificed much, but always with courage and good humor and deep, deep love of country,” he added.

Johnson served as a Texas representative until 2019, and for a time was acting chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee.

After the moment of silence, other congressman spoke about the memories they shared with the late representative.

House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) praised Johnson and reminisced on his friendship with the Texas Republican, applauding his service to his country. He added that while his captors during his time as a POW “probably broke every bone in his body,” they “never broke” Johnson.

“Sam and I got to be close friends. … The conversations and just the understanding of a giant that we served with, someone who served our country, spent seven years in the Hanoi Hilton,” he said on the floor.

“I know we have some giants like John Lewis and Sam Johnson, who we got to serve with. Sam left and now is no longer with us and John still is and he is going through his own battle, and we pray for John as well,” Scalise said, in reference to Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), who was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer late last year.

“As we have our battles and debate politically, it’s good to remember the special people that get to make up this body and become part of this great institution of which we have the honor to serve,” he continued.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (R-Md.) said despite their differences on certain policies, he and Johnson managed to forge a strong friendship while serving together in the lower chamber, praising the late congressman for his love of the country.

“I want to echo on his comments, although the congressman, a patriot, a hero, did not always vote with me nor I with him, we became good friends, and I shared with you and others in this body a deep respect for who he was as a person — a decent man, a patriotic man, a good man,” he said following Scalise’s remarks.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) praised Johnson’s character, calling him a “true hero,” adding that it was “an honor” to be able to serve with him.

“It’s a sad day for all of us but an honor to serve with Sam Johnson and serve with him in the Congress. I appreciate that you mentioned him and John Lewis in the same sentence because I had the privilege and John Larson set up a hero’s night, a bipartisan hero’s night and I had the privilege of giving Sam the award that night as a true hero, and he was funny,” she said.

“And he always beamed when he talked about Shirley and he loved the children and his son Bob, but now he is with Shirley and Bob. This is a very special person,” she added.


Robert Loomis

Robert Loomis, the Random House editor who recently passed away at the age of 93, was a legendary figure in book publishing.  He was an editor when books were really edited.

Loomis was a master at working with authors, nursing them through the process — which, at times, took years.  All the while, Loomis stayed in the background; the book and the author did not share the spotlight with anyone at the publishing house.

In his autobiography, At Random, Bennett Cerf, the genius behind Random House, said this about Loomis: “Bob is one of those painstaking editors in the old tradition and has been helpful to a great variety of writers of both fiction and non-fiction…”

Cerf noted that William Styron and Philip Roth, both placed their work at Random House, in part because of Loomis.

RIP, Robert Loomis


Robert Loomis, a blue-chip editor of old-fashioned sense and persistence who in more than 50 years at Random House encouraged, prodded and befriended William Styron, Maya Angelou, Calvin Trillin and many others, died April 19. He was 93.

His death was announced by Random House, which did not provide additional details.

“I was just one of many who adored and learned from Bob, who inspired several generations of editors and publishers,” Gina Centrello, the company’s president and publisher, said in a statement. “His values and work ethic are permanently embedded in the Random House DNA.”

Mr. Loomis was a final link to the “Golden Age” of publishing after World War II. He joined Random House in 1957, when co-founders Bennett Cerf and Donald Klopfer were running the company. He remained there into his 80s, retiring in 2011 long after most of his peers had died or changed jobs, long after the publisher had been bought by the German media conglomerate Bertelsmann and the industry overall had shed much of its genteel past.

He was dignified, loyal and successful. Among the award winners and bestsellers, fiction and nonfiction, that he helped publish: Styron’s “Sophie’s Choice,” Angelou’s “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” Jonathan Harr’s “A Civil Action” and Neil Sheehan’s “A Bright Shining Lie.”

He spoke softly but acted forcefully, likening a manuscript to a sculpture that required the most precise shaping. “Passages” author Gail Sheehy wrote of his “barely audible critiques emitted from beneath his white pencil mustache.” Angelou would remember his determination to get her to write a memoir, “Caged Bird,” and how he scrutinized every word and punctuation mark. Mr. Loomis spent more than a year working with historian John Toland on revisions for “The Rising Sun,” a Pulitzer Prize winner. Styron, best man at both of Mr. Loomis’s weddings, would speak of his intolerance for bad writing, and his “almost” style of editing that would label a manuscript “almost” ready for publication.

“With Bob,” Styron once said, “you can’t get by with those moments of laziness or failure of clarity or self-flattering turgidity: He pounces like a cobra, shakes the wretched phrase or sentence into good sense or meaning.”

In the 2011 memoir “Reading My Father,” Alexandra Styron described Mr. Loomis and her father as a literary odd couple, the author “all untidy appetite and noisy id,” the editor a “sort of Leslie Howard figure, fair hair always meticulously groomed, his voice as gentle as his demeanor.” Literary agent Sterling Lord remembered a more adventurous side to Mr. Loomis, who for lunch would fly clients in his private plane from Manhattan to Pennsylvania. Seymour M. Hersh, the prizewinning author and journalist, would describe Mr. Loomis as “precise, careful and very direct,” and certain to order a “Jack Daniel’s on the rocks” while only eating “half of his lunch.”

Mr. Loomis was married twice, most recently to Hilary Mills. He had two children, one with each wife.

He was born Robert Duane Loomis in Conneaut, Ohio, on Aug. 24, 1926. Raised in Plain City, Ohio, he attended Duke University, where he would meet such future authors as Styron, Peter Maas and Mac Hyman before graduating in 1949. After writing at an ad agency, Appleton-Century, and editing at Holt, Rinehart & Winston, he joined Random House, which thought enough of the new hire to pay for a one-bedroom apartment in Greenwich Village that had an asking price of $8,000.

“Donald [Klopfer] said, ‘We hear you want to buy this apartment.’ And I said, ‘Yeah, well, $8,000. I don’t have any money at all,’ ” Mr. Loomis recalled in Al Silverman’s “The Time of Their Lives,” a 2008 publishing history. “Donald pulled out a checkbook and wrote on it ‘eight thousand dollars.’ ”

He would publish literary fiction by Styron and Pete Dexter, history by Sheehan, Shelby Foote and Daniel J. Boorstin, and confessional works by Trillin and Angelou. Along with his many triumphs, Mr. Loomis was also responsible, at least in part, for Edmund Morris’s “Dutch.” It was an authorized biography of Ronald Reagan that came out in 1999 and became a scandal when Morris — winner of the Pulitzer Prize for the Loomis-edited “The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt” — admitted that he didn’t understand his subject and inserted himself as a fictional character.

Critics, historians and Reagan supporters denounced the book and Mr. Loomis, who acknowledged that he was initially horrified by Morris’s experiment, was forced to defend permitting it.

“I really began to believe in it after a while,” Mr. Loomis told the New York Times in 1999. “As the material came in, and we started to talk, this was a book that really went through a metamorphosis. This needed a different creative structure to it and different ways of telling Ronald Reagan’s story using this viewpoint.”



William Bailey

William Bailey, whose graceful still life paintings expressed serenity and purity of form, has passed away at the age of 89.  He didn’t care for “the noise” of contemporary art — his bottles and bowls were the epitome of tranquility.

He spent many years teaching at the Yale School of Art where he was much beloved.

A breath of calmness in a turbulent world — William Bailey, RIP.


William Bailey, whose pristine, idealized still lifes and female nudes made him one of the leading figures in the return of figurative art in the 1980s, died on April 13 at his home in Branford, Conn. He was 89.

His death was confirmed by his daughter, Alix Bailey.

Beyond his painting, Mr. Bailey influenced generations of students in his many years as a teacher at the Yale School of Art.

In some of his best-known work, Mr. Bailey arranged simple objects — the eggs, bowls, bottles and vases that he once called “my repertory company” — along a severe horizontal shelf, or on a plain table, swathing them in a breathless, deceptively serene atmosphere heavy with mystery.

His muted ochres, grays and powdery blues conjured up a still, timeless world inhabited by Platonic forms, recognizable but uncanny, in part because he painted from imagination rather than life.

“They are at once vividly real and objects in dream, and it is the poetry of this double life that elevates all this humble crockery to the realm of pictorial romance,” Hilton Kramer wrote in The New York Times in 1979.

Mr. Bailey’s female figures, some clothed in a simple shift or robe and others partly or entirely nude, are disconcertingly impassive, implacable and unreadable, fleshly presences breathing an otherworldly air.

The critic Mark Stevens, writing in Newsweek in 1982, credited Mr. Bailey with helping to “restore representational art to a position of consequence in modern painting.”

But his version of representation was entirely idiosyncratic, seemingly traditional but in fact “a modernism so contrarian,” the artist Alexi Worth wrote in a catalog essay for the Betty Cuningham Gallery in 2010, “that it feels, despite its historical sophistication, almost like a brand of outsider art.”

William Harrison Bailey was born on Nov. 17, 1930, in Council Bluffs, Iowa. His father, Willard, worked in radio advertising and moved the family from city to city in the Midwest. Bill was in his early teens when his father died. His mother, Marjorie (Cheyney) Bailey, was a homemaker who later worked as an accountant for her second husband, Fred Baker, who ran a business training investigators.

Mr. Bailey studied art at the University of Kansas but left before graduating and enlisted in the Army. He saw combat as a platoon sergeant in Korea and later served in Japan.

On returning to the United States, he enrolled in Yale University’s art school, where he studied with the abstract painter Josef Albers. He earned a bachelor of fine arts degree in 1955 and a master’s degree two years later.

In 1958 he married Sandra Stone, a fellow Yale student who paints under her maiden name. In addition to her and his daughter, he is survived by a son, Ford, and five grandchildren.

Mr. Bailey remained at Yale as a teacher of drawing and painting until 1962, when he accepted a teaching position at Indiana University. He returned to Yale as a tenured professor in 1969 and taught there until 1995, a period when Yale gained recognition as one of the premier art programs in the United States.

“When we come to look at the artists influenced by him and his way of seeing, we see some of the more prominent names of the late 20th century,” said Mark D. Mitchell, a curator at the Yale University Art Gallery. The names include Nancy GravesRichard SerraRackstraw DownesSylvia MangoldJohn Currin and Lisa Yuskavage.

On Mr. Bailey’s visits to Italy, France and Greece, his encounters with Greek sculpture and the cool classicism of painters like Piero della Francesca and Ingres proved decisive. “When my work changed around 1960, I was thinking, ‘There’s so much noise in contemporary art. So much gesture,’” he told Yale News in 2010. “ I realized it wasn’t my natural bent to make a lot of noise, and I’m not very good at rhetorical gesture.”

Reacting to a colleague who proposed the egg as the ultimate example of pure, simplified form, Mr. Bailey painted an egg on a shelf, then two, seeing rhythmic possibilities. A dozen of them appear in the 1974 painting “Eggs.” Before long the eggs were sharing space with cups, bowls and vases. Although his studio was filled with these props, Mr. Bailey painted entirely from memory.

He had his first solo show at the Robert Schoelkopf Gallery in Manhattan in 1968. In 1970 he was included in a major survey, “Twenty-two Realists,” at the Whitney Museum of American Art.

Interest in figurative painting gathered steam, propelling Mr. Bailey to the cover of Newsweek, which in 1982 chose the semi-nude “Portrait of S” (1979-80) to epitomize the trend. Proving that the bourgeoisie could still be shocked, retailers across the country pulled the magazine from their shelves, although newsstand sales of Newsweek doubled in Manhattan. Feminists saw something like bondage in the dress straps that held the subject’s arms close to her body.

Mr. Bailey, who always spoke of his work in purely formal terms and rejected the label “realist,” was aghast. “I admire painters who can work directly from nature, but for me that seems to lead to anecdotal painting,” he once said. “Realism is about interpreting daily life in the world around us. I’m trying to paint a world that’s not around us.”

Like the Italian still life painter Giorgio Morandi, one of his heroes, Mr. Bailey pursued his ideas single-mindedly, playing variations on his arranged objects and female figures throughout his career. He was never given a career survey in a major museum, but last year the Yale University Art Gallery mounted a retrospective, “William Bailey: Looking Through Time.”

A survey of his drawings was scheduled to open at the New York Studio School last month but was put on hold because of the coronavirus pandemic.


Robert Osborne

Turner Classic Movies turned 26 on April 14.  The original host was the much beloved Robert Osborne.  The first film the channel screened was “Gone With The Wind.”


Robert Osborne, the former columnist for The Hollywood Reporter who as the genial and scholarly host of Turner Classic Movies became a beloved icon to a legion of groupies with gray hair, died Monday in New York, the cable network announced. He was 84.

David Staller, his longtime partner, told The Hollywood Reporter that Osborne died in his sleep in his apartment from natural causes.

“Robert was embraced by devoted fans who saw him as a trusted expert and friend,” TCM general manager Jennifer Dorian said in a statement. “His calming presence, gentlemanly style, encyclopedic knowledge of film history, fervent support of film preservation and highly personal interviewing style all combined to make him a truly world-class host.

“Robert’s contributions were fundamental in shaping TCM into what it is today, and we owe him a debt of gratitude that can never be repaid.”

Osborne began his career as an actor, was mentored by the legendary comedienne Lucille Ball and became the official biographer of Oscar thanks to a series of books he wrote about the Academy Awards. Osborne missed the 2015 TCM Classic Film Festival, announcing at the last minute that doctors advised him to have an undisclosed medical procedure that he had planned to put off.

Attendees were extremely disappointed not to have him there. And then, less than three weeks before the start of the 2016 event, Osborne pulled out again, saying “a health issue has come up which requires attention.”

A few months after he accepted a surprising invitation from Olivia de Havilland to escort her to a televised celebration of Bette Davis’ career, the journalist joined THR in September 1977 to write reviews.

He penned the paper’s must-read Rambling Reporter column from April 1983 until he left the publication in June 2009. When Ted Turner’s TCM debuted as a competitor to the American Movie Classics cable channel on April 14, 1994, Osborne was on the air to introduce the very first film, Gone With the Wind.

He stayed with the channel as primetime host from there, introducing and providing insightful tidbits for many of the 400 or so movies that TCM shows every year.

He also presided over the network’s Private Screenings series, interviewing such legends as Betty Hutton, Robert Mitchum, Jane Russell and Mickey Rooney, and hosted the TCM Classic Film Festival back in his old Hollywood stomping grounds when health permitted.

“He’s a scholar in classic film, he truly is,” actress Eva Marie Saint said of Osborne during a Private Screenings special that premiered in January 2014 and had Alec Baldwin, in a role reversal, interviewing the TCM host. “He’d make a wonderful professor. Wouldn’t you like to be in his class?”

When Angela Lansbury received her honorary Oscar at the 2013 Governors Award, the actress picked Osborne to introduce her. “I came to the conclusion that the one person who really knew my early work was Robert,” she said in her acceptance speech.

“My condolences to the family and friends of Robert Osborne who championed the Golden Age of movies to an entire generation who never grew up in the wonderful world of black and white,” director Steven Spielberg said in a statement. “He got us excited and reawakened to the greatest stories ever told with the most charismatic stars in the world. I will miss all the backstage stories he told us before and after the films. He sure opened my eyes to all that has come before and put TCM solidly on the map while ensuring his own legacy as the man who brought us back to the movies.”

Born on May 3, 1932, Osborne was raised in the farming community of Colfax, Wash. His father was a geography and history teacher. He enjoyed going to the movies and eventually worked at the Rose and the Roxy, the two movie houses in town. Once he fell while changing a film title on a marquee and broke both arms. (Years later, he bought a share of the Rose.)

While attending the University of Washington, Osborne said he spent every Saturday “not drinking or partying or having a good time. I was at the library,” he recalled in the Private Screenings special.

“I went through every issue of The New York Times for 20 years, taking notes on all the first-run theaters in New York, what was playing, when they changed the bill, how long a film played at Radio City Music Hall — or who was playing in it.”

At a time before the internet — heck, no one had even published a book that kept track of all the Oscar winners — and when nostalgia for Hollywood didn’t exist, Osborne scribbled all his information onto pages of a loose-leaf binder he nicknamed Blackie.

“I was always into films, passionate about them, at a time when nobody was into that kind of stuff,” he said. “I was getting this education about film — and there was no place to use it.”

Osborne pursued a career as an actor, and for a regional production in Seattle of the psychological thriller Night Must Fall, he landed the role of the duplicitous Danny opposite Oscar winner Jane Darwell (The Grapes of Wrath).

The actress took an interest in Osborne and convinced him to further his acting career in Los Angeles, not New York. He stayed with her at her home in the San Fernando Valley and soon earned a six-month contract at Fox, appearing in The Californians, a TV Western starring Paul Henreid.

He met Ball after overhearing that she was looking for actors for her company, Desilu Productions, and she invited him to her house for dinner on a Friday night. Actresses Janet Gaynor and Kay Thompson were there; at one point, the guests moved to the living room, where they watched Funny Face (1957) from a 35mm projector. When Thompson and Audrey Hepburn came on the screen doing a musical number, Thompson jumped up and mimicked the motions.

At this surreal moment, Osborne recalled, “I started to say to myself, ‘Did you ever believe you would be in this [situation]?'”Then I said, ‘Wait a minute, I always knew I was going to.'”

He signed with Desilu and from Ball “received a year’s master class from this great artist.” He did commercials for Falstaff and Carling Black Label beers, Folgers coffee and John Hancock insurance and appeared on the ABC soap opera The Young Marrieds and as a banker in the pilot for the sitcom The Beverly Hillbillies.

Remarkably, de Havilland — whom he had been introduced to by Ball — phoned and asked him to escort her to a televised AFI Life Achievement Award tribute to Davis in 1977 at the Beverly Hilton. He soon found himself at the head table with, among others, Henreid, director William Wellman and their wives.

He celebrated Feb. 27 each year — that’s the day de Havilland called to invite him to the Davis bash. (For many years afterward, he spoke to the reclusive actress, then living in Paris, on the phone every Sunday.)

Ball once gave him advice that would change his life: “We have enough actors,” she said. “We don’t have enough people writing about the industry.” So Osborne took up journalism.

He recalled that James Stewart would invite local journalists to a one-on-one lunch every year.

Actors like Stewart “weren’t really working. They were beyond their peak years. They had time to talk to you,” he recalled. “They loved somebody like me who had a background like mine because they didn’t have to explain who they were … they didn’t have to say, ‘I was a big deal.’ I knew that.”

When Osborne had difficulty uncovering which actress won an Oscar in some particular year, he decided to write the first in a series of reference books about the Academy Awards. He went on The Dinah Shore Show, and a friend from Seattle saw him and reviewed his book for The Reporter. That led him to a writing position at THR.

In 1987, the THR editor allowed him to write his Rambling Reporter column from New York — but only for a year — after he landed a gig to chat about movies on CBS’ The Morning Program, co-hosted by Mariette Hartley.

But when THR was sold to BPI Communications in 1988, the editor quit and Osborne, wanting to remain in New York, didn’t get around to reminding anyone about that agreement to return to L.A.

While working as a host for The Movie Channel, Osborne was invited by actress Dorothy Lamour to lunch with AMC execs Brad Siegel and Jim Wise. They offered him the afternoon AMC hosting slot when his Movie Channel contract expired (Bob Dorian was then AMC’s primetime host).

Siegel then called and said, scratch that: He was moving to Atlanta to start a rival network, Turner Classic Movies, based out of Atlanta, and wanted Osborne there. He jumped at the chance.

In recognition of his contributions to classic film, Osborne received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2006 and a special award from the National Board of Review in 2008.

Staller said there will be no funeral but a memorial service is being planned. He said donations in Osborne’s name can be made to the ASPCA or the Animal Medical Center of New York.


Glenn Beckert

Glenn Beckert was, according to Joe Maddon, “an all-time Cub great.”  Well said.  A four time All Star, Beckert played second base as well as anyone in the late 60’s, early 70’s.  And he was a wonderful, fan-friendly gentleman off the field.  Rip.


Former Chicago Cubs All-Star Glenn Beckert died Sunday, the team announced. He was 79. Beckert spent nine seasons as the Cubs’ starting second baseman, followed by two years with the Padres to finish out his career. The Pittsburgh native was a classic kind of second baseman, combining slick fielding with a bat that rarely struck out.

That profile earned him a frequent place in the No. 2 spot of the Cubs’ lineup and four All-Star nods. All told, Beckert retired with a 4.4 percent strikeout rate, something you simply do not see in today’s game.

Beckert’s retirement was frequently spent back at the ballpark, from the Cubs’ statement:

“After his playing days concluded, Glenn was a familiar sight at Wrigley Field and numerous Cubs Conventions, and he always had a memory to share of his time on-and-off the field with his beloved teammates. We offer our deepest condolences to Glenn’s daughters, Tracy Seaman and Dana Starck, his longtime partner Marybruce Standley and his many, many friends.”

Former teammate and Hall of Famer Fergie Jenkins also paid tribute to his friend.

We lost a great one today, Glenn Beckert. Glenn was My friend, my @Cubs teammate, and the best man at my wedding. He will be greatly missed. My thoughts and prayers are with the Beckert family.

Former Cubs manager Joe Maddon also attested to Beckert’s character.

My condolences to the Beckert Family….Glenn was a part of my Adopt-a-Legend Program with the Rays in Port Charlotte….so proud of his minimal strikeouts..we spoke about that often…an all-time Cub great ….a Gentleman and friend…


Terrence McNally

Terrence McNally, while not as famous as some of his contemporaries, carved out an impressive career in the theater.

“I never thought I wrote literature,” he once stated.  “I write plays for actors and I need actors I can trust.”



Terrence McNally, whose long, varied and prolific career as a playwright, musical librettist and screenwriter earned him five Tony Awards and an Emmy, died Tuesday. He was 81.

McNally, once referred to as “the quintessential man of the theater” by actress Zoe Caldwell, died from complications related to the coronavirus, his publicist Matt Polk said. He was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2001 and twice underwent surgery.

While most playwrights since World War II have arrived like comets, creating their signature scripts early in their careers, the arc of McNally’s writing life testified to the riches — especially insight, empathy and a hesitance to judge flawed people too harshly — that came with maturity.

“A huge part of me is gone. But then it’s not. Terrence wouldn’t like that,” tweeted Broadway legend Chita Rivera, who worked with McNally on numerous projects, including “Kiss of the Spider Woman.” “He helped to make me who I am as a person. He is the epitome of love and friendship. Only God knows how much I will miss him.”

“Hamilton” creator Lin-Manuel Miranda shared his own tribute on social media: “Heartbroken over the loss of Terrence McNally, a giant in our world, who straddled plays and musicals deftly. Grateful for his staggering body of work and his unfailing kindness.”

McNally earned his first Broadway writing credit at age 23 and continued steadily from there into his 30s, establishing a reputation as an edgy and talented playwright and farceur who consistently challenged and mocked authority during the Vietnam War era. But McNally’s streak of signature plays — the ones that won him awards and brought him to the front rank of American playwriting — didn’t begin until 1987, the year he turned 48.

“Frankie and Johnny in the Claire de Lune” (1987), “The Lisbon Traviata” (1989), “Lips Together, Teeth Apart,” (1991) “A Perfect Ganesh” (1993), “Love! Valour! Compassion!” (1994) and “Master Class” (1995) may not qualify as landmarks with near-universal recognition and acclaim among theater lovers — as has been the case with the best works of some of McNally’s more famed contemporaries, such as Edward Albee, August Wilson, Tony Kushner, David Mamet and Sam Shepard.

But the plays he wrote during his extended creative high tide were funny, warm, poignant, life-affirming and popular.

In the shadow of the AIDS epidemic, McNally, who was gay and in 2000 lost longtime partner Gary Bonasorte to the disease, met the demands of that critical time with a warmer, more embracing vision than he’d shown in his first quarter-century of work.

He won best-play Tonys in 1995 and 1996. The first was for “Love! Valour! Compassion!,” in which eight gay men spending holiday weekends together one summer under the shadow of AIDS have their bonds tested and affirmed. He won again with “Master Class,” a loving but hardly fawning portrayal of opera diva Maria Callas, which became a meditation on the extreme commitment and sacrifice exacted from those compelled to reach for the greatest artistic heights.

“When I’m writing, I try not to think in terms of themes,” McNally told the New York Times in 2004. “But I think I write about the difficulty of people connecting as they’re trying to find hope, trying to find their way to real love and commitment.”

McNally disliked being described as a gay playwright, dismissing it as a reductive label, especially since his subject matter was hardly limited to gay life. Still, it was a subject he took on from early in his career, and approached with both anger and tenderness starting in the late 1980s.

“I think I wanted to write about what it’s like to be a gay man at this particular moment in our history,” he wrote in a preface to the published text of “Love! Valour! Compassion!”

“I think I wanted to tell my friends how much they’ve meant to me. I think I wanted to tell everyone else who we are when they aren’t around,” he added. “I think I wanted to reach out and let more people into those places in my heart where I don’t ordinarily welcome strangers.”

Growing up in Corpus Christi, Texas, McNally fell first for opera. After winning notice as a playwright, he became a regular panelist on a quiz show that aired during weekly radio broadcasts of the Metropolitan Opera. McNally’s lifelong love of music, fueled by massive emotion as well as his ability to deal with complex stories, positioned him to write Tony-winning books for two musicals far outside the feel-good, romantic Broadway norm.


Terrence McNally, left, and his husband, “Hadestown” producer Tom Kirdahy, arrive at the 73rd Tony Awards in New York in 2019.

(Evan Agostini / Invision/Associated Press)

“Kiss of the Spider Woman” (1993) adapted Manuel Puig’s novel and stage drama about the unlikely bond between two Latin American cellmates: an apolitical, movie-bedazzled gay man and a heterosexual political prisoner who is a committed revolutionary.

With “Ragtime” (1998), McNally grappled successfully with E.L. Doctorow’s sprawling novel about early 20th century America — a task that required interweaving three different story strands involving a patrician WASP family, a penniless Jewish immigrant who becomes a pioneering filmmaker and the saga of Coalhouse Walker Jr., a proud young black pianist driven to violence by racial injustice.

His fifth Tony would be a lifetime achievement award given in 2019.

McNally won his Emmy for “Andre’s Mother,” a 1990 teleplay he wrote for PBS’ “American Playhouse” series; it expanded upon his short stage piece about a mother who couldn’t accept her son’s homosexuality during life and had to come to terms with it after his death.

At the same time, the playwright was capable of lighter entertainments. He wrote both the stage play and film script for “The Ritz” (1975), a farce about a heterosexual man who hides out in a gay bathhouse when he runs afoul of his murderous, Mafioso brother-in-law. His book for the stage musical version of “The Full Monty” (2000) changed the film’s British backdrop to Buffalo, N.Y., as it told the story about down-on-their-luck working class men who become male strippers to cobble together a living and regain their sense of accomplishment.

“If “Ragtime” hoped to say something worthwhile as it wanted to be liked, ‘The Full Monty’ only wanted to be liked and dare not say anything much at all,” writer Thomas S. Hischak complained in his book “Boy Loses Girl: Broadway’s Librettists.”

McNally also was questioned in some quarters for allowing traditional Hollywood casting of a beautiful leading lady — Michelle Pfeiffer — opposite Al Pacino in “Frankie and Johnny,” the film version of “Frankie and Johnny in the Claire de Lune.” On stage, Kathy Bates had originated the role of Frankie.

In an interview published in the book “The Playwright’s Art: Conversations With Contemporary American Dramatists,” McNally conceded that as the screenwriter for “Frankie and Johnny” he lacked the casting pull he’d had as the playwright of “Frankie and Johnny in the Claire de Lune.” He had pushed for Bates to play Frankie on film, but wound up pleased with what he considered Pfeiffer’s “much darker … more painful” take on the character.

While he also wrote the screenplay for a film version of “Love! Valour! Compassion!” McNally always set his theatrical work first, and said the main reason he lived in New York City was to be able to see three or four plays a week and keep tabs on which actors might be right for his shows.

“In Hollywood, it’s `’Take the money and run,’” he mused wryly in a 1995 interview with the Los Angeles Times. “But in theater it’s `’What money? And run where?’ I’m stuck here.”

Caldwell, who died last month and for whom McNally tailored a leading part in “Lips Together, Teeth Apart,” as well as the imperious Maria Callas of “Master Class,” was among the theater folk who appreciated his priorities: “Nowadays playwrights are snapped up by Hollywood … and you never hear from them again” in the theater world, she told The Times in 1995 as “Master Class” was about to open at the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles. “Terrence has never quit being a man of the theater. And now age and experience have given his work an added compassion and depth.”

McNally’s father, Hubert, had a beer distributorship in Corpus Christi, and his mother, Dorothy, kept the books. Two childhood trips to the theater in New York City made a lasting impression: As a small boy, McNally saw Ethel Merman play the lead in “Annie Get Your Gun” and Gertrude Lawrence play opposite Yul Brynner in “The King and I.”

“To this day, she and Yul Brynner dancing is more vivid than a play I saw last week, including some of my own,” McNally said in a 1991 interview for “The Playwright’s Art.”

McNally began to write plays as a teenager; he attended Columbia University and indulged his theatrical cravings in New York.

Still, he was pointing toward a career in journalism — he recalled that in his summer job as a reporter for the Corpus Christi Caller Times he infuriated Lyndon B. Johnson, then a U.S. senator from Texas, by observing in print that the future president had been flipping through a copy of Playboy magazine while talking on the phone with wife Lady Bird. “I think I got my first taste of drama, getting an audience, readers, excited. And I liked that.”

While still in college, McNally began a romantic relationship with Edward Albee that lasted several years. He spent two years as a stage manager and gofer for the Actors Studio, sitting in on the development of new plays, including Albee’s “The Zoo Story” and Tennessee Williams’ “The Night of the Iguana.”

“I was once asked to act, and I sure got over that bug,” he recalled in “The Playwright’s Art.” “I was in a play with Jane Fonda … and Keir Dullea …. I thought I was not very good but OK. The day we did it my knees were literally shaking. I threw up. I came out, my eyes were blinking, I had tics, and it was the most horrible two hours of my life.”

In 1963, McNally notched his first Broadway credit, as co-adaptor of “The Lady of the Camellias,” based on a mid-19th century novel and play by Alexandre Dumas (the younger). Meanwhile, his first original full-length play, “And Things That Go Bump in the Night,” landed on Broadway in 1965. The oblique, harsh tale of a family beset by Cold War paranoia took a near-unanimous critical drubbing.

McNally soldiered on, found a simpatico lead actor in James Coco, and began to enjoy success on and off-Broadway with plays such as “Next.”

McNally’s career threatened to fall apart when his next satire, a show-biz lampoon called “Broadway, Broadway,” died during its tryout run in Philadelphia, despite a cast that included Coco and Geraldine Page. McNally stopped writing after the disaster, and began to drink.

“I sulked. I lost my nerve,” he told The Times in 1992. “If you’re scared you can’t do anything. And I guess I got scared.”

McNally said that he turned things around after a man recognized him in a store — not as a playwright, but as a panelist on the “Texaco Opera Quiz” radio show. “I thought to myself, `Oh, great. If I drop dead now, this is my obituary: ‘Terrence McNally, the former ‘Texaco Opera’ music panelist, died yesterday.’ I better go write some plays.’”

At the suggestion of John Tillinger, who became his regular play director, McNally reworked “Broadway, Broadway” into “It’s Only a Play,” featuring Coco and Christine Baranski. New York Times critic Frank Rich raved that “only a writer who loves the theater and has survived its bloodiest wars could have written a comedy like this.”

McNally had found solid home turf on which to fight the theatrical wars. Starting with “It’s Only A Play” (1986), McNally enjoyed a 13-year run in which the Manhattan Theatre Club, a nonprofit, off-Broadway regional house, produced everything he wrote except for musicals and “Master Class,” which premiered at the Philadelphia Theatre Company.

In his 1995 preface to the published script of “Love! Valour! Compassion!” McNally basked in the “unconditional love” he got from MTC. “I owe [the theater’s leaders] my artistic life. In a profession with too many orphans, they have given me a home.”

But then came “Corpus Christi” (1998) in which McNally aimed to plead the case that homosexuals were entitled to equal standing when it came to the Christian conception of religious grace. The essentially reverential work, a modernized passion play, depicted Jesus and his apostles as sexually active gay men. But protests erupted when word of the subject matter leaked out.

The theater said it received threats saying there would be violence in the house if the show were performed, and McNally himself came under death threats and a fatwah from a London-based Muslim cleric. MTC canceled the show, saying it couldn’t guarantee the audience’s safety — only to reverse itself after the stage world erupted in outrage that it would give in to homophobic threats. The show went on, and critics, expecting onstage fireworks, declared it a dramatic fizzle.

When McNally submitted his next play, “Dedication, or the Stuff of Dreams,” to MTC, the theater’s artistic director, Lynne Meadow, rejected it. In 2004, Meadow told the New York Times that she “did not feel it was ready for production,” but looked forward to working with McNally again. “Manhattan Theatre Club is not high on my radar screen right now,” sniffed McNally, whose post-“Corpus Christi” dramas, “Dedication” and “The Stendhal Syndrome,” were produced by a smaller New York company, Primary Stages.

He also continued to work as a librettist, crafting the book to “Chita Rivera: The Dancer’s Life,” which premiered at the Old Globe Theatre in San Diego in 2005, then moved to Broadway, earning mixed reviews for McNally’s effort — the norm for his shows after “Master Class.” More recently, he wrote the book for “Anastasia,” which premiered in 2016 and then ran on Broadway from 2017 to 2019.

For McNally, actors were everything. He regarded them not just as conduits for his words and ideas, but as creative forces that he likened to builders who bring into being a structure that had only existed in abstract form. He often wrote parts with particular actors in mind — including Bates, Coco, Baranski, Caldwell and Nathan Lane, who made his name playing Mendy, the sardonically funny but deeply lonely opera buff of “The Lisbon Traviata,” and Buzz, the comical musical theater nut who suffers HIV bravely but vulnerably in “Love! Valour! Compassion!”

“My definition of a good actor is someone who uses the text to…make alive and whole what had only existed on paper and in my mind as a blueprint,” McNally wrote in his 1994 preface to “15 Short Plays.” “They give it color and movement and life. My definition of a poor actor is someone who uses the text as a pretext to explore his or her psyche so that the play ends up about them as opposed to the character…. Good actors allow me to write bravely…. I dare to take chances when I know my words are not only in their mouths but in their hearts and souls and nervous systems.”

As for his own role, McNally said, “I like to write plays….I like rehearsing plays. I never feel more alive than when I’m in a rehearsal room with…actors and a good director and everyone is waiting for me to come up with a rewrite.”

McNally’s survivors include his husband, Tom Kirdahy, whom he married in a civil-union ceremony in Vermont in 2003 and then married again in 2010.

The main writer of this obituary, longtime L.A. Times critic and reporter Mike Boehm, died in May 2019.