Cicely Tyson, 96, the pioneering Black actor who gained an Oscar nomination for her role as the sharecropper’s wife in “Sounder,” earned a Tony Award in 2013 at age 88 and touched TV viewers’ hearts in “The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman,” for which she won two Emmys, died Thursday. Tyson’s death was announced by her family, and no other details were available.
A onetime model, Tyson chose her projects carefully. “I’m very selective as I’ve been my whole career about what I do. Unfortunately, I’m not the kind of person who works only for money. It has to have some real substance for me to do it,” she told The Associated Press in 2013.
She was one of the recipients for the 2016 Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor. At that ceremony, President Barack Obama said: “Cicely’s convictions and grace have helped for us to see the dignity of every single beautiful memory of the American family.”
Cloris Leachman, 94, who won an Academy Award for her portrayal of a neglected housewife in the stark drama “The Last Picture Show” but who was probably best known for getting laughs, notably in three Mel Brooks movies and on television comedies like “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” and “Malcolm in the Middle,” died on Wednesday at her home in Encinitas, California.
A character actor of extraordinary range, Leachman defied typecasting. In her early television career, she appeared as Timmy’s mother on the “Lassie” series. She played a frontier prostitute in “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” a crime spree family member in “Crazy Mama,” and Frau Blücher in Mel Brooks’ “Young Frankenstein,” in which the very mention of her name drew equine commentary.
Leachman remained in show business almost to the end of her life. “They are going to have to take a lead pipe and beat me over the head with it to get me to stop,” she told an interviewer in 2011.
George Armstrong, 90, who captained the Toronto Maple Leafs to four Stanley Cups in the 1960s and was one of the first players of Indigenous descent to play professional hockey, has died. His death was announced Sunday by the Maple Leafs, who said he died of heart complications, citing his family.
Armstrong had 296 goals and 417 assists over 21 seasons for the Leafs, including 12 seasons as team captain, and remains the franchise’s leader in games played, variously listed at 1,187 or 1,888. The right wing had 26 goals and 34 assists in 110 playoff games. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1975. Some 41 years later, Armstrong was voted No. 12 on the franchise’s list of 100 greatest Maple Leafs in its centennial season.
Larry King, 87, the suspenders-sporting Everyman whose broadcast interviews with world leaders, movie stars and ordinary Joes helped define American conversation for a half-century, died Jan. 23 at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. No cause of death was given, but a spokesperson said Jan. 4 that King had COVID-19.
A longtime nationally syndicated radio host, from 1985 through 2010 he also was a nightly fixture on CNN, where he won many honors, including two Peabody Awards. With his celebrity interviews, political debates and topical discussions, King wasn’t just an enduring on-air personality. He also set himself apart with the curiosity he brought to every interview and his nonconfrontational style that relaxed his guests and made him readily relatable to his audience.
Walter Bernstein, 101, a scriptwriter who was blacklisted in the 1950s for his Communist Party membership and who two decades later skewered the McCarthy era in “The Front,” a film that starred Woody Allen in a rare semiserious role and earned an Oscar nomination for best screenplay, died Jan. 23 at home in Manhattan. The cause was pneumonia
Bernstein first distinguished himself as a combat correspondent during World War II .His bestselling book of war dispatches, “Keep Your Head Down, was lauded for its expertise with dialogue and propelled a film and TV writing career that lasted into his 90s. His later credits included “Paris Blues,” starring Paul Newman and Sidney Poitier as American jazzmen in France; “Yanks,” with Richard Gere as an American soldier in wartime England; and “The House on Carroll Street,” a blacklist and Nazi drama with Kelly McGillis and Jeff Daniels. His teleplay for HBO’s “Miss Evers’ Boys” (1997), about the U.S. government’s use of unsuspecting black men to test the effects of syphilis, earned an Emmy nomination.
Song Yoo-jung, 26, an actor who appeared in several television dramas, was found dead Jan. 23 in Seoul, South Korea, the latest loss of a young performer in the country’s entertainment industry, which has faced a reckoning over the mental health burden on its glamorous stars. The company that represented her, Sublime Artist Agency, did not disclose the cause, but the suddenness of Song’s death brought to mind the series of suicides that has plagued Korean pop music in recent years.
Junior Mance, 92, jazz pianist who worked alongside countless musical trailblazers during his 75 years on the bandstand and whose style was anchored in a deep understanding of the blues, died Jan. 17 at home in New York City. He had Alzheimer’s disease.
Mance, who became a professional musician at age 10, had one of the longest and most varied careers in jazz, beginning in the 1930s and lasting well into the 21st century. He appeared on hundreds of albums and had fruitful musical partnerships in the 1950s with singer Dinah Washington, saxophonist Cannonball Adderley and trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie.
Besides Washington, Mance accompanied many singers over the years, including Carmen McRae, Johnny Hartman, Joe Williams and Jimmy Witherspoon. He often performed on jazz cruises and had large followings in Japan, Israel and Europe. He taught for 23 years at the New School in New York and was the author of a book on playing blues piano.
Juan Carlos Copes, 89, who transformed tango from a social dance into dance for the stage, with complex, highly polished choreography that could wow an audience over the course of an entire evening, died Jan. 15 at a clinic in the suburbs of Buenos Aires. The cause was complications of COVID-19.
Juan Carlos Copes and his partner María Nieves Rego may have had their biggest impact performing in the show “Tango Argentino,” which had its premiere in Paris in 1983 and became an international juggernaut, touring Europe and Asia before coming to Broadway in 1985, where it was nominated for several Tonys. The show, again starring the pair, returned to Broadway in 1999, when it was nominated for best revival.