Roger Michell, 65, the British theater and film director best known for “Notting Hill,” the wildly popular 1999 romantic comedy that somewhat overshadowed the rest of his extensive and diverse body of work, died Wednesday. No other details were available. Although his success with “Notting Hill” vaulted him into the top ranks of English-language directors, Michell kept a low profile, preferring to let his actors and screenwriters shine — a quality that may explain why so many actors liked working with him.
Melvin Van Peebles, 89, the filmmaker praised as the godfather of modern Black cinema and a trailblazer in American independent movies, died Tuesday at his home in New York. His death was announced by his son Mario Van Peebles, the actor and director.
A Renaissance man whose work spanned books, theater and music, Melvin Van Peebles is best known for his third feature film, “Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song.” The movie sizzled with explosive violence, explicit sex and righteous antagonism toward the white power structure. It was dedicated to “all the Black brothers and sisters who have had enough of The Man.”
In addition to making movies, Van Peebles published novels, in French as well as in English; wrote two Broadway musicals and produced them simultaneously; and wrote and performed spoken-word albums that many have called forebears of rap.
Willie Garson, 57, a versatile character actor best known for his work on “Sex and the City” and its spinoff films as one of the best friends of Carrie Bradshaw, played by Sarah Jessica Parker, and who went on to star in “White Collar” and appeared in many other TV shows and movies, died Tuesday from an unspecified illness, People magazine reported.
Sarah Dash, 76, who co-founded the singing group Labelle — best known for the raucous 1974 hit “Lady Marmalade” — died Monday. Patti LaBelle and Nona Hendryx completed the trio. They announced Dash’s death Monday on social media. No cause of death was disclosed.
Dash brought her church-rooted soprano and high harmonies to Labelle, which began as a 1960s girl group before reinventing itself as a socially aware, Afro-futuristic rock and funk powerhouse, costumed in glittery sci-fi outfits and singing about revolution as well as earthy romance. In 1974, Labelle had a No. 1 hit, “Lady Marmalade,” and performed the first concert by a pop group — and a Black group — at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City.
George Holliday, 61, a plumber whose video of the beating of Black motorist Rodney King by Los Angeles police officers in 1991 tore open a city already heaving with racial tension, died Sept. 19 of complications of COVID-19 at a Los Angeles hospital.
After hearing sirens, Holliday used a Sony Super8 Handycam video from his balcony to record the beating. After unsuccessfully offering the footage to police, Holliday gave the videotape to KTLA-TV. The footage was widely seen and used to prosecute the officers, who were found not guilty by a largely white jury, sparking violent protests. In ways that then couldn’t be seen, Holliday’s simple act of hoisting a video camera to his shoulder was probably one of the first flickers of the citizen journalist movement to come.
Reuben Klamer, 99, an inventor who dreamed up The Game of Life and many other toys and games that entertained young baby boomers in the pre-internet 1950s and ’60s, as well as their children in the ’80s and ’90s, died Sept. 14 at his home in La Jolla, California. The Game of Life has sold more than 70 million copies in 59 countries. It became such a part of the culture that it was inducted into the permanent Archives of Family Life at the Smithsonian Institution in 1981.
Irma Kalish, 96, a television writer who tackled abortion, rape and other provocative issues in many of the biggest comedy hits of the 1960s and beyond as she helped usher women into the writers’ room, died Sept. 3 in Woodland Hills, California.
Yolanda López, 78, an artist and activist who created one of the most famous artworks in Chicano history by boldly recasting the Virgin of Guadalupe in her own image — as a young, strong, brown woman wearing running shoes and a wide grin — died Sept. 3 at her home in San Francisco. The cause was complications of liver cancer.