Writer A.I. Bezzerides dies at 98

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LOS ANGELES (AP) – A.I. Bezzerides, a novelist-turned-screenwriter best known for post-World War II film noir classics such as “Kiss Me Deadly,” “On Dangerous Ground” and “Thieves’ Highway,” died Jan. 1 after a brief illness, his daughter said. He was 98.

Bezzerides was working as a communications engineer for the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power when his 1938 novel “Long Haul” was turned into “They Drive by Night,” a 1940 melodrama starring George Raft and Humphrey Bogart as struggling trucker brothers hauling produce.

After Warner Bros. paid him $2,000 for the rights to his novel and put him under contract as a $300-a-week screenwriter, Bezzerides discovered that a script based on his book already had been written.

Bezzerides’ first film credit was “Juke Girl,” a 1942 story of migrant farmworkers starring Ann Sheridan and Ronald Reagan.

After leaving Warner Bros., Bezzerides, nicknamed Buzz, wrote or co-wrote films such as “Beneath the 12-Mile Reef,” “Desert Fury,” “Sirocco” and “Track of the Cat.”

He got into television in the 1950s, writing for such series as “Bonanza,” “DuPont Theater,” “Rawhide,” “77 Sunset Strip” and “The Virginian.”

He was perhaps best known for “Thieves’ Highway,” director Jules Dassin’s thriller based on Bezzerides’ 1949 novel; “On Dangerous Ground,” Nicholas Ray’s 1952 crime drama; and “Kiss Me Deadly,” Robert Aldrich’s 1955 crime thriller loosely based on the Mickey Spillane novel.

Albert Isaac Bezzerides was born Aug. 9, 1908, in Samsun, Turkey. His mother was Armenian and his father a Turkish-speaking Greek.

He moved to America with his parents by age 2, and they settled in Fresno, where his father worked in the fields before becoming a produce-hauling trucker.



Alice Coltrane

LOS ANGELES (AP) – Alice Coltrane, a jazz performer and composer and wife of the late saxophone legend John Coltrane, has died. She was 69.

Coltrane died Friday of respiratory failure at West Hills Hospital and Medical Center, said her sister, Marilyn McLeod.

For nearly 40 years, Coltrane managed the archive and estate of her husband, a pivotal figure in the history of jazz. He died of liver disease in 1967 at age 40.

A pianist and organist, Alice Coltrane was noted for her astral compositions and for bringing the harp onto the jazz bandstand.

Born Alice McLeod in Detroit on Aug. 27, 1937, she began learning classical piano at age 7. She studied jazz piano briefly in Paris before moving to New York, where she met her future husband in 1963.

At that time, she was playing with bandleader Terry Gibbs, who has often taken credit for introducing the two.

She left Gibbs’ band to marry Coltrane and began performing with his band in the mid-1960s. She played tour dates with Coltrane’s group in San Francisco, New York and Tokyo.

“John not only taught me how to explore but to play thoroughly and completely,” Alice Coltrane said in comments published in “The Black Giants.”

After his death, she devoted herself to raising their children but continued to play.

Early albums under her name, including “A Monastic Trio” and “Ptah, the El Daoud,” received critical praise.

Coltrane, a convert to Hinduism, was also a significant spiritual leader and founded the Vedantic Center, a spiritual commune now located in Agoura Hills.



Dora McDonald

ATLANTA (AP) – Dora McDonald, secretary for Martin Luther King Jr., died just days before the national holiday that honors her former boss. She was 81.

McDonald died Saturday of complications from cancer at Emory Crawford Long Hospital, hospital spokesman Lance Skelly said Sunday.

King entrusted his family to McDonald’s care when he was in jail or traveling, and it was McDonald who told Coretta Scott King that her husband had been assassinated on April 4, 1968, in Memphis, Tenn.

McDonald started working for the civil rights leader in 1960 and quickly became his confidant and adviser.

In a 1989 interview with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, McDonald described her role as King’s secretary at Ebenezer Baptist Church and later at the Southern Christian Leadership Conference as “a 24-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week job.”

“But there was never a time – and I can say this in all truthfulness, from the time I went to work for him until his death – that I regretted what I was doing or where I was at that moment,” she said.



Augustin Diamacoune Senghor

ZIGUINCHOR, Senegal (AP) – The Rev. Augustin Diamacoune Senghor, a rebel leader who fought for an independent state in Senegal’s southern Casamance region for decades, has died. He was 78.

The Roman Catholic priest died Saturday night in France at Paris’ Val de Grace hospital, where he had been treated for kidney problems since late October, Jean Marie Biagui, secretary-general of Senghor’s Movement of Democratic Forces of Casamance, said Sunday.

Separatist rebels in southern Senegal have waged a low-level struggle for independence since 1982. They claim France never fully colonized Casamance, so it should be separate from Senegal, which gained independence in 1960. The region is cut off from much of the rest of Senegal by Gambia.

Senghor’s body was expected to be repatriated to Senegal, but there was no word on when, Biagui said.

With Senghor in poor health, power struggles for leadership of the rebel movement have erupted. Rebels split into rival factions and took up arms against each other in April 2006 in fighting that killed dozens of people and forced thousands of civilians to flee.

AP-ES-01-15-07 0621EST

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