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Final curtain

Patrick Newley presents a round-up of the lives and careers of some key figures of the entertainment world who have passed away recently

Distinguished character actress Gabrielle Daye, who had a long career both on stage and film, died on January 5, aged 93. Born in Manchester on October 2, 1911, she worked with many of Britain’s leading directors including Lindsay Anderson and John Schlesinger but was best known on TV for her role as Beattie Pearson, Albert Tatlock’s daughter in Coronation Street, between 1975 and 1983.

Actress Ruth Warrick, who made her film debut as Orson Welles’ first wife in the 1941 cinema classic Citizen Kane, died on January 15, aged 88. Born on June 29, 1916, Warrick made over 30 films in the forties and fifties including The Corsican Brothers, Journey Into Fear and Arms and the Woman. She made several appearances on Broadway and was the star of the long-running American television series All My Children.

Pop singer Ray Petersen, who died on January 25, aged 65, had his biggest recording hit with the sixties song Tell Laura I Love Her. Born in Texas on April 23, 1939 he was one of the first performers to establish his own label, Dunes, named after the famous Las Vegas nightspot.

Musician John Borthwick, who died on January 26, aged 78, worked with a variety of bands such as Edmundo Ros, Victor Silvester and Sid Phillips. He played in many West End theatres and most recently with Burt Rhodes and his orchestra.

Ivan Noble, the BBC News website journalist who had been writing about his treatment for a brain tumour, died on January 31, aged 37. Noble was born in Leeds in 1967. He joined the BBC News website science and technology team as a journalist in 2001.

Phyllis Allan was a star of the circus ring in Britain and Europe for over 50 years. Born on July 18, 1920, she presented one of the most famous dog acts and worked with companies such as Bertram Mills and Billy Smart’s circus. She also appeared in the 1967 film Beserk with Joan Crawford. She died on February 3, aged 84.

The veteran American actor Ossie Davis, whose 65 year career spanned stage, film and television, died on February 4, aged 87. Born in 1917, Davis wrote the hit play Purlie Victorious, a satire of black life in the post Civil War South, in which he also starred on Broadway in 1961. Among his many film credits as an actor were Grumpy Old Men (1993) and I’m Not Rappaport (1996).

The circus performer Eileen Pinder, who died on February 8, aged 98, was a member of the world famous Pinder Circus company and rode solo in the family’s big troupe act for many years. Born in 1906, she married George Pinder in 1942 and they had four children who all became circus artists. Eileen also worked as house manager for Fossett’s Circus while her husband clowned and played the drums.

Vernon Abeysekera, the charismatic director of broadcasting at Radio Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) for many years, died on February 12, aged 85. Born in 1919, he was famous for his star interiews including Laurence Olivier, Vivien Leigh and Peter Finch. He wrote a volume of memoirs called Greasepaint and Microphone.

Harry Baird, Britain’s foremost young black actor of the late fifties, died on February 13, aged 73. Born on May 12, 1931 in Guyana, Baird came to the UK in 1948 and went on to star in films such as A Kid for Two Farthings (1954), Sapphire (1959) and The Italian Job (1969). He appeared in numerous TV series and in the seventies formed his own company to buy and sell films.

The distinguished conductor Marcello Viotti died on February 15, aged 50. Viotti was born in Switzerland on June 29, 1954. Numerous engagements in Italy eventually led to his appointment as music director of the Turin Opera. He also conducted the English Chamber Orchestra and had a flourishing career in Europe and in the United States.

Irish born Hollywood actor Dan O’Herlihy died on February 17, aged 85. Born on May 1, 1919, O’Herlihy was nominated for the best actor Academy Award for his starring role in Luis Bunel’s Adventures of Robinson Crusoe (1954). He worked at Dublin’s Gate and Abbey Theatres where he appeared in over 70 plays and in 1946 he won critical praise for his role in Carol Reed’s cult thriller Odd Man Out. In the nineties he made several appearances in the hit American television series Twin Peaks.

Film producer Otto Plaschkes, best known for his ‘swinging sixties’ film Georgy Girl, died on February 14, aged 75. Plaschkes was born in Vienna on September 13, 1929 and came to London just before the Nazis walked into his native city. After making his mark with Georgy Girl (1966) his other notable hits included The Bofors Gun (1968), Butley (1976), starring Alan Bates, Hopscotch (1980) with Glenda Jackson and Walter Mathau, and The Holcroft Covenant (1985) with Michael Caine.

Edward Patten, a member of Gladys Knight and the Pips, died on February 25, aged 66. Patten was born in Georgia on August 2, 1939. The Pips had over 25 hit singles including I Heard It Through the Grapevine, I’ve Got to Use My Imagination, You’re The Best Thing That Ever Happened To Me and Midnight Train to Georgia.

One of Hollywood’s greatest actresses Teresa Wright died on March 6, aged 86. A sensitive and conscientious performer who shied away from Hollywood glamour and publicity, she rocketed to fame after her first film The Little Foxes, which brought her an Oscar nomination as best supporting actress in 1941. Born on October 27, 1918 she starred in several other Hollywood classics including Alfred Hitchcock’s Shadow of a Doubt (1943), Marlon Brando’s first film The Men (1950) and the Oscar winning The Best Years of Our Lives (1946). A new generation of cinemagoers saw her as Miss Birdie in the 1997 film verson of John Grisham’s The Rainmaker, starring Matt Damon.

Academy Award-winning film production designer John Box, who worked on a string of international hit films including The Inn of the Sixth Happiness, A Man For All Seasons and The Great Gatsby, died on March 7, aged 85. Born on January 27, 1920, he won no fewer than four Oscars for his designs – for Lawrence of Arabia, Doctor Zhivago, Oliver! and Nicholas and Alexandra.

Jeanette Schmid, a professional whistler who performed on stage with stars such as Frank Sinatra, Marlene Dietrich and Edith Piaf, died on March 10, aged 60. Born Rudolf Schmid on November 6, 1924, she spent the first 40 years of her life as a man, even fighting for the German Army during the Second World War. In the eighties she worked as Baroness Lips Von Lipstrill touring Europe and the USA.

Robbie Armstrong, who died on March 13, aged 64, helped entertain British troops when he founded Nairobi’s most famous entertainment venue, the Starlight Club. Born in Whiteley Bay on May 27, 1940 Armstrong had gone to Kenya with the British Army in 1960 and never left. In Kenya he discovered many future great African bands and singers who he featured at the Starlight Club.

The veteran agent Bert Layton died on March 26, aged 85. Born in Hamburg, Layton settled in Gloucester after the Second World War and for 30 years ran the TB Phillips Agency. The agency was one of the leading bookers of outdoor entertainment both in Britain and Europe. In 1992 Layton was President of the National Entertainments Agents Council.

Betty Bolton was a well known recording artist and performer in revues in London during the twenties and thirties. Born on January 26, 1906 she made 78rpm records for over 11 different labels both as a comic and as a dance band singer. She also appeared in Andre Charlot revues and several minor British films. She died on April 2, aged 99.

One of the world’s most famous musical choreographers Onna White died on April 8, aged 83. She won an Oscar for her choreography on the film Oliver! and collected eight Tony Award nominations for her work on Broadway. Born on March 24, 1922 in Novia Scotia she choreographed the dancing for the original productions of The Music Man, Half a Sixpence, Mame, Carmen Jones, Gigi, 70 Girls 70, Goodtime Charley and Working.

John Bennett was one of television’s most familiar character actors and appeared in a host of series, including The Forsyte Saga, Hitler – The Last Ten Days, I, Claudius, Anna Karenina and Lillie. Born on May 8, 1928, Bennett also had a long film career and was recently seen in the award-winning The Pianist. He died on April 11, aged 76.

The musician and musical director Salvador (Tutti) Camarata wrote many arrangements for the Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra which became million sellers, the most popular being Tangerine, The Breeze and I and Amapola. He was the conductor of many Bing Crosby recording sessions and came to England in 1946 where he became head of Decca Records. Born on May 11, 1913, he died in Los Angeles on April 13, aged 91.

Novelist and playwright Julia Darling, who died on April 13, aged 48, was best known to theatre audiences for her comedy Donuts Like Fanny’s, the hit play about the life of TV cook Fanny Craddock. Born in Winchester on August 21, 1956, she also wrote numerous BBC radio dramas and several award-winning novels.

One of the finest British screen actresses of her generation, Kay Walsh appeared in such notable films as In Which We Serve (1942), Oliver Twist (1948), Tunes of Glory (1960) and The Ruling Class (1972). Born on August 27, 1921, she was formerly married to the director David Lean and her professional and private life connected with his in an intense creative partnership that lasted for more than a decade. The Lean-Walsh union ended in 1949 when the director married the actress Ann Todd. Walsh continued to work in films until the early eighties and she made her last screen appearance in Night Crossing (1981) with John Hurt. She died on April 16, aged 84. David Lean died in 1991.

Cabaret star and actor Tony Weston died on April 19, aged 73. Born in Cornwall in September 1931 he first attracted attention at the age of 20 when he appeared with George Formby in the West End musical Zip Goes a Million. He went on to star in cabaret throughout the UK and Europe and he also had a successful recording career.

Actress, choreographer and teacher Surya Kumari Elvin died on April 25, aged 80. A child prodigy born in India in 1925, she was known as ‘the Shirley Temple of India’. She later moved to America where she taught Indian music and dance. In 1965 she appeared in Kindly Monkeys at the Arts Theatre in London. She and her husband, the writer Harold Elvin, founded India Performing Arts. They toured all over the UK, India and North America.

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