Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

September 29, 2010

Three great ones pass on

Filed under: obituary — louisproyect @ 7:20 pm
NY Times September 29, 2010

Buddy Collette, Musician Who Played With Jazz Greats, Dies at 89


Buddy Collette, a jazz saxophonist, flutist, clarinetist and bandleader who blended his usually soothing, often pungent sounds with those of many jazz greats and who was a leader in the struggle to break racial barriers in the music industry, died on Sept. 19 in Los Angeles. He was 89.

The cause was a respiratory ailment, his daughter Cheryl Collette-White said.

Unlike many jazz musicians who gravitate to New York to achieve visibility, Mr. Collette remained primarily a West Coast player, performing and recording with stars there and teaching music at several colleges and universities.

Over the years he played with performers like Charles Mingus, Charlie Parker, Dexter Gordon, Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Thelonious Monk, Stan Kenton, Sarah Vaughan, Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole, Nelson Riddle and Louie Bellson.

Mingus so admired Mr. Collette’s saxophone playing that he went so far “as to claim that his friend Buddy Collette could play as well as Bird,” a reference to Parker’s nickname, Ted Gioia wrote in his 1997 book “The History of Jazz.”

After serving in the Navy in World War II, during which he led a dance band, Mr. Collette became a well-known name among the swing and bebop players in the night spots dotting Central Avenue in Los Angeles. In 1949, he broke a color barrier when he became the only African-American in the band for the Groucho Marx show “You Bet Your Life.”

Along with the alto saxophonist and composer Benny Carter, Mr. Collette became a leader in the struggle to eliminate segregation in the American Federation of Musicians. On April 1, 1953, the black and white locals of the union in Los Angeles merged.

“I knew that was something that had to be done,” Mr. Collette told The Los Angeles Times in 2000. “I had been in the service, where our band was integrated. My high school had been fully integrated. I really didn’t know anything about racism, but I knew it wasn’t right. Musicians should be judged on how they play, not the color of their skin.”

NY Times September 29, 2010

Arthur Penn, Director of ‘Bonnie and Clyde,’ Dies


Arthur Penn, the stage, television and motion picture director whose revolutionary treatment of sex and violence in the 1967 film “Bonnie and Clyde” transformed the American film industry, died Tuesday night at his home in Manhattan, the day after he turned 88.

The cause was congestive heart failure, his son, Matthew, said.

A pioneering director of live television drama in the 1950s and a Broadway powerhouse in the 1960s, Mr. Penn developed an intimate, spontaneous and physically oriented method of directing actors that allowed their work to register across a range of mediums.

In 1957, he directed William Gibson’s television play “The Miracle Worker” for the CBS series “Playhouse 90” and earned Emmy nominations for himself, his writer and his star, Teresa Wright. In 1959, he restaged “The Miracle Worker” for Broadway and won Tony Awards for himself, his writer and his star, Anne Bancroft. And in 1962, he directed the film version of Mr. Gibson’s text, which won the best actress Oscar for Bancroft and the best supporting actress Oscar for her co-star, Patty Duke, as well as earning nominations for writing and directing.

Mr. Penn’s direction may also have changed the course of American history. He advised Senator John F. Kennedy during his watershed television debates with Richard M. Nixon in 1960 (and directed the broadcast of the third debate). Mr. Penn’s instructions to Kennedy — to look directly into the lens of the camera and keep his responses brief and pithy — helped give the candidate an aura of confidence and calm that created a vivid contrast to his more experienced but less telegenic Republican rival.

But it was as a film director that Mr. Penn left his mark on American culture, most indelibly with “Bonnie and Clyde.”

Arthur Holch

NY Times September 28, 2010

Arthur Holch, Emmy-Winning Documentarian, Dies at 86


Arthur E. Holch Jr., an Emmy Award-winning television documentarian whose work at midcentury and afterward tackled charged subjects like race relations, Nazism and Communism, died on Thursday in Greenwich, Conn. He was 86 and a longtime Greenwich resident.

The cause was heart failure, his family said.

Mr. Holch’s best-known documentaries include “Walk in My Shoes,” broadcast on ABC in 1961 and later nominated for an Emmy Award. With sober intimacy, the hourlong program chronicled what daily life was like for black people in the United States, through interviews with African-Americans from a range of social classes.

Among those whose voices graced the film were a Harlem cabby, members of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the comedian Dick Gregory and Percy E. Sutton, then a young lawyer and later a Manhattan borough president.

Mr. Holch (pronounced Holtsch) wrote the script of the documentary, which was produced and directed by Nicholas Webster.

Reviewing “Walk in My Shoes,” an installment in the Bell & Howell “Close-Up!” series, The New York Herald Tribune called it “one of the finest documentaries ever offered on television,” adding, “No one with a spark of human compassion could witness this program without an infinitely deeper understanding and sense of concern for an appalling American problem.”

Mr. Holch won a News & Documentary Emmy in 1992 for “Heil Hitler! Confessions of a Hitler Youth,” a half-hour documentary he produced and directed.

Broadcast the previous year on HBO, “Heil Hitler” told the story of Alfons Heck, who as a child in Germany belonged to the Hitler Youth. Mr. Heck, who later settled in the United States, came to repudiate Nazi ideology and wrote and lectured widely about his boyhood experience.

Arthur Everett Holch Jr. was born in Omaha on March 13, 1924, and reared in Denver. He earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Denver, followed by a master’s from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism.

Mr. Holch began his career as a reporter for The Rocky Mountain News before moving to New York, where he worked first for CBS radio and afterward for NBC television. He later formed his own company, Round Hill Productions.

His other documentaries include two films about life in Communist countries that he wrote, produced and directed: “The Beautiful Blue and Red Danube” (1967) and “Cuba: The Castro Generation” (1977). Both were broadcast on ABC.

Mr. Holch is survived by his wife, the former Ellen O’Keefe Hare, whom he married in 1951; three sons, Gregory, Christopher and Jeremy; four daughters, Hilary O’Neill, Milissa Laurence, Meredith Holch and Allegra Holch; and seven grandchildren.

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