Jane Powell, 92, an actress and singer who first appeared in movies as a teenager and became a sunny stalwart of Hollywood musicals in the 1940s and 1950s, most notably opposite Fred Astaire in “Royal Wedding” and Howard Keel in “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers,” died Thursday at her home in Wilton, Connecticut.
A soprano with a 2 ½-octave range, Powell was pressed into show business at age 2 by parents convinced that she was their ticket to fortune during the Depression. She became a radio headliner and star of the war-bonds entertainment circuit in her native Oregon. At 14, her performance of an aria from Bizet’s opera “Carmen” helped her win a Hollywood talent show and a contract with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, then a hive of song-and-dance talent, including Astaire, Mickey Rooney, Judy Garland and Gene Kelly.
Norm Macdonald, 61, the acerbic and sometimes controversial comedian familiar to millions as the “Weekend Update” anchor on “Saturday Night Live” from 1994 to 1998, died Tuesday in Los Angeles. The cause was cancer.
Macdonald had a deadpan style honed on the stand-up circuit, first in his native Canada and then in the United States. He had an almost folksy way of speaking, delivering his satirical quips without so much as raising an eyebrow. If the audience didn’t get his jokes, he would often ad-lib a comment that evoked more laughter than the original punchline.
During his three years on “Weekend Update,” which he largely wrote himself, he changed the style of the segment from one heavily based on political commentary to a darker, more acerbic view of society. Rather than joke about President Bill Clinton, he would search for humor in the story of serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer or in the collection of skulls found in the house of a Haitian general. But in early 1998 he was booted from that same anchor chair, reportedly at the behest of Don Ohlmeyer, president of NBC’s West Coast division, who was said to have been annoyed by Macdonald’s relentless mocking of his friend O.J. Simpson.
The Rev. Cho Yong-gi, 85, charismatic founder of one of the world’s largest megachurches, whose preaching of “can-do positive thinking” helped fuel the explosive growth of Christianity in a once war-ravaged South Korea, died Tuesday at a hospital in Seoul. Cho, an emeritus pastor at the Yoido Full Gospel Church, had been hospitalized for more than a year after suffering a cerebral hemorrhage, the church said in a statement.
George Wein, 95, an impresario whose Newport jazz and folk festivals were the scenes of musical milestones, including the revival of Duke Ellington’s career and Bob Dylan’s epochal decision to “go electric” in 1965, and whose idea for outdoor performances became the model for Woodstock, Lollapalooza and countless other live-performance extravaganzas, died Monday at his apartment in Manhattan.
Abimael Guzmán, 86, the mastermind of the Shining Path terrorist organization in Peru, a brutal Maoist movement that nearly toppled the country’s government in the 1980s and early 1990s, leaving thousands of people dead, died Sept. 11 in a hospital at a military prison outside Lima. Peru’s justice minister, Aníbal Torres, announced the death, saying the cause was an infection.
An estimated 70,000 Peruvians were killed during the decadelong peak of the Shining Path insurgency, at least one-third at the hands of guerrillas. Shining Path advocated a violent reordering of society away from the vices of urban life. Its leaders echoed Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge with warnings that “rivers of blood” would flow after their victory, and that as many as 1 million Peruvians might be put to death.
Michel Laclotte, 91, who as director of the Louvre Museum oversaw much of its historic renovations and who earlier, as its chief curator of paintings, championed the Musée D’Orsay and I.M. Pei’s glass pyramid at the Louvre, which became two of the most controversial but ultimately beloved architectural projects of late 20th-century Paris, died Aug. 10 in Montauban, in southern France.
Nino Castelnuovo, 84, a popular Italian film and television actor who found success beyond his home country when he starred alongside Catherine Deneuve in the sentimental French new wave musical “The Umbrellas of Cherbourg,” died Sept. 6 in Rome.
Carmen Balthrop, 73, internationally recognized soprano who distinguished herself in operas including Scott Joplin’s “Treemonisha” and Mozart’s “The Magic Flute,” in recitals and in master classes around the world, died of cancer Sept. 5 at home in Mitchellville, Maryland. Balthrop, who studied voice at the University of Maryland and Catholic University, was thrust to the forefront of the opera world in 1975 when, at 26, she won first prize in the Met’s National Council Auditions, one of the most prestigious competitions in opera.
Joan Washington, 74, an acclaimed dialect coach who taught Penélope Cruz to sound Greek, Jessica Chastain to sound Israeli and an entire cast of British actors to speak like Brooklyn Jews, died Sept. 2 at her home in Avening, England. Her husband, actor Richard E. Grant, announced her death on Twitter. The cause was lung cancer. In a career spanning four decades, Washington instructed actors to speak not just in national dialects but also in regional and local lilts, even historical ones. Dialect, Washington said, was not just about mimicry, about reading a script with an accent. It had to be built into the core of a performance.
Sheila Bromberg, 92, harpist on the Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” died Aug. 17 at a hospice center in Aylesbury, England. Bromberg was paid about $17 for a three-hour stint as a session musician at the EMI recording studio on Abbey Road in London on March 17, 1967. She was handed a piece of sheet music and only later learned that the notes she played were to be the intro on “She’s Leaving Home” by the Beatles. Among other gigs, she played harp on two early James Bond films, “Dr. No” and “Goldfinger,” and in the 1960s and ’70s she was a member of the BBC’s Top of the Pops orchestra.