Nello Santi, 88, a conductor who was one of the most authoritative interpreters of Italian opera, especially the works of Giuseppe Verdi, and a podium favorite of singers and orchestra players, died Thursday at his home in Zurich. Santi had been treated for a blood infection.
Santi upheld a traditionalist approach that called for close adherence to the score and a gentle but firm insistence that singers avoid exaggerated flights of virtuosity. From his musicians, he demanded clarity and had a deep understanding of voices. Orchestras under his direction rarely drowned out singers, even those with lighter voices.
Kirk Douglas, 103, the dimple-chinned screen icon who was known for bringing an explosive, clenched-jawed intensity to a memorable array of heroes and heels in films such as “Spartacus” and “Champion” and for playing an off-screen role as a maverick independent producer who helped end the Hollywood blacklist, died Wednesday in Beverly Hills, California, surrounded by family.
The stage-trained Douglas earned his first Oscar nomination playing the ruthlessly ambitious boxer in the 1949 drama “Champion.” Douglas later received Oscar nominations for his performances as an opportunistic movie mogul in the 1952 drama “The Bad and the Beautiful” and as tormented artist Vincent van Gogh in the 1956 biographical drama “Lust for Life.”
Never a fan of the Hollywood studio system — he likened the standard seven-year studio contract to slavery — Douglas launched his own independent production company in 1955, supporting a number of films in which he starred, including director Stanley Kubrick’s landmark anti-war film “Paths of Glory,” and “The Vikings” and “Spartacus.”
As executive producer of “Spartacus,” Douglas helped end the Hollywood blacklist by giving blacklisted writer Dalton Trumbo screen credit under his own name for his work on the 1960 Roman Empire epic that starred Douglas as the gladiator-trained slave revolt leader.
Alice Mayhew, 87, influential editor of political and historical works whose authors ranged from Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, to Taylor Branch and Doris Kearns Goodwin, died Tuesday at home in Manhattan. The New York City native edited some of the most notable nonfiction releases of the past half century, including Woodward and Bernstein’s “All the President’s Men”; the feminist classic “Our Bodies, Ourselves”; Branch’s Pulitzer Prize-winning “Parting the Waters”; and Goodwin’s Pulitzer Prize-winning “No Ordinary Time.”
She also worked with former President Jimmy Carter, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the historians Stephen Ambrose, Michael Beschloss and David Herbert Donald, among others.
Daniel arap Moi, 95, former schoolteacher who became Kenya’s longest-serving president and led the East African nation through years of repression and economic turmoil fueled by runaway corruption, died Tuesday at a hospital in Nairobi. He succeeded Kenya’s founding president, Jomo Kenyatta, in 1978 and ruled for 24 years. His critics called him a dictator for his authoritarian style, although he enjoyed strong support from many Kenyans.
Gene Reynolds, 96, Emmy-winning producer and director who was a force behind two of the most acclaimed TV series of the 1970s and early ’80s, “M*A*S*H” and “Lou Grant,” died Monday in Burbank, California. He started on the performing side of the camera, appearing in some 80 films and TV shows, beginning when he was a child.
He developed an unusual sort of specialty: playing the younger versions of characters played by top film stars of the 1930s. Reynolds racked up dozens more TV and film acting credits, including more than 40 in the 1950s, but by the end of that decade, he had shifted his focus to directing and, soon after that, to producing.
Bernard Ebbers, 78, a telecom executive who turned a small Mississippi firm into the industry juggernaut WorldCom, only for its gains to be unmasked as historic fraud in an $11 billion corporate accounting scandal that landed him in prison and sent shock waves through the U.S. economy, died Feb. 2 in Brookhaven, Mississippi.
Ebbers, who was convicted in 2005, had been released early from federal prison in December after serving more than 13 years of his 25-year sentence. In court filings, his lawyers said he suffered health problems that included macular degeneration and a heart condition.
Peter Serkin, 72, son of pianist Rudolf Serkin and admired for his insightful interpretations, technically pristine performances and tenacious commitment to contemporary music, died from pancreatic cancer Feb. 1, in Red Hook, New York.
Though he was proud of his heritage — his maternal grandfather was influential conductor and violinist Adolf Busch, whose musical forebears went back generations — Serkin also found it a burden. By challenging his legacy, he sought to claim it on his own terms, and contemporary music became central to his artistic identity.
Anne Cox Chambers, 100, heiress to the Cox family media empire who went door-to-door campaigning for Democratic politicians, served as ambassador to Belgium during the Carter administration and helped bankroll museums and other causes, died at home Jan. 31 in Atlanta. The Dayton, Ohio, native was a daughter of James Middleton Cox, a three-term governor of Ohio, an unsuccessful Democratic candidate for president in 1920, and the founder of Cox Enterprises.
For more than 30 years, Chambers and her sister, Barbara Cox Anthony, had controlling ownership of that empire. Her sister died in 2007 at 84. Forbes magazine estimated Chambers’ wealth at $17 billion in 2016, before she dissolved a family trust and give away most of that fortune to her children.
Greta Beer, 98, a Romanian Jew whose decades-long search for her father’s Swiss bank account helped force banks in Switzerland to pay more than $1 billion in compensation to settle a lawsuit over assets deposited by Holocaust victims, died Jan. 23 at her home in Brighton, Massachusetts.
She never found justice for herself. The banks never paid her a cent. But by becoming the public face of thousands of victims after she testified at a Senate Banking Committee about the issue, she had helped generate the momentum that led to the $1.25 billion settlement of a class-action suit against the Swiss banks in 1998.
Dee Molenaar, 101, he legendary mountaineer, artist and author, died of congestive heart failure on Jan. 19. One in a galaxy of accomplished Seattle-area mountaineers, Molenaar knew Rainier so well that he referred to it simply as “the mountain” where he hiked as a young man, a father, a National Park Service climbing ranger, a geologist and as an artist. When he turned 100 in 2018, Molenaar sat at the base of Rainier in a wheelchair for one last visit with his old friend.
“His watercolor paintings, the maps he drew, his writing, which has stood the test of time,” said fellow mountaineer Tom Hornbein, speaking of Molenaar’s sprawling intellectual curiosity and creativity.