EmptyRichard B. Graff, a major figure in the film distribution arena for more than 60 years, died April 27 in Tarzana, Calif. He was 82.
Graff rose from film booker to branch manager at Universal Pictures as well as to executive vp at National General Corp. After a stint as head of distribution at American International Pictures, he was appointed president of worldwide distribution at MGM/UA and then the Weintraub Entertainment Group.
He subsequently formed his own film distribution consulting company for major motion picture producers. In 2002, Graff was inducted into the ShowEast Hall of Fame.
During his tenure at MGM/UA, he persuaded producer Jerry Weintraub to release "Rocky IV" on the day before Thanksgiving in 1985, a then-unprecedented date. The opening was an enormous success and ended the practice of saving all big releases for Christmas.
For more than the past decade, he remained the senior distribution consultant to the Cubby Broccoli family company, Danjaq, overseeing the distribution of the James Bond movie library worldwide.
Anne Pitoniak, a Tony-nominated actress best known for her work in Marsha Norman's Pulitzer Prize-winning drama " 'night, Mother," died April 22 of complications from cancer at her Manhattan home. She was 85.
The actress made her Broadway debut in 1983 in " 'night, Mother," receiving a Tony nomination for her portrayal of the mother. Pitoniak also was nominated for a Tony for her role in the 1994 revival of "Picnic."
She also appeared in 18 films, notably "Unfaithful" (2002), "The Opportunists" (2000), "Agnes of God" (1985) and "Old Gringo" (1989).
Mstislav Rostropovich, a master cellist who fought for the rights of Soviet-era dissidents and later triumphantly played Bach suites below the crumbling Berlin Wall, died April 27 in his native Russia, suffering from intestinal cancer. He was 80.
More than 4,500 people joined his widow, soprano Galina Vishnevskaya, for a service Sunday at the Christ the Saviour Cathedral in Moscow. Guests included Queen Sofia of Spain, France's first lady Bernadette Chirac, and President Ilham Aliyev of Azerbaijan, where the musician was born. Boris Yeltsin's widow, Naina, and Natalya, wife of author Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, also attended.
Like his friend Yeltsin, Rostropovich was buried at the Novodevichy cemetery in Moscow, near the graves of his former teachers, composers Dmitry Shostakovich and Sergei Prokofiev.
Paul Kimatian, a writer, producer and photographer, died April 28 at his home in Los Angeles after a battle with cancer. He was 61.
Kimatian's most recent work as a writer-producer was on MGM's "Deuces Wild" (2002), starring Stephen Dorff and Brad Renfro. Kimatian also wrote and produced "The Wharf Rat" (1995) for Showtime and served as associate producer on "Never on Tuesday" (1988) and "Street Music" (1981).
Kimatian began his career as a still photographer, working on many of Martin Scorsese's films, including "Taxi Driver," "New York, New York" and "American Boy: A Profile of Steven Prince." He also was a production coordinator on "The Last Waltz" in 1978.
Sally Lee White, the wife of former National Association of Theatre Owners president Roy B. White, died March 26 at their home in Naples, Fla. White, her husband of 56 years, survives her.