Prolific, political Nobel winner Pinter dies at 78


British Nobel laureate Harold Pinter, who produced some of his generation's most influential dramas and became a staunch critic of the U.S.-led war in Iraq, died Dec. 24 in London after a long battle with cancer, his widow Antonia Fraser said. He was 78.

In recent years, he seized the platform offered by his 2005 Nobel Literature prize to denounce President George W. Bush, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and the war in Iraq.

But he was best known for exposing the complexities of the emotional battlefield.

His writing featured cool, menacing pauses in dialogue that reflected his characters' deep emotional struggles and spawned a new adjective found in several dictionaries: Pinter-esque.

"Pinter restored theater to its basic elements: an enclosed space and unpredictable dialogue, where people are at the mercy of each other and pretense crumbles," the Nobel Academy said. "With a minimum of plot, drama emerges from the power struggle and hide-and-seek of interlocution."

Pinter wrote 32 plays; one novel, "The Dwarfs," in 1990; and put his hand to 22 screenplays.

Born Oct. 30, 1930, in the London neighborhood of Hackney, he was forced along with other children during World War II to evacuate to rural Cornwall in 1939. He was 14 before he returned. By then, he was entranced with Franz Kafka and Ernest Hemingway.

By 1950, Pinter had begun to publish poetry and appeared onstage as an actor. He began to write for the stage and published "The Room" in 1957. A year later, his first major play, "The Birthday Party" was produced on the West End.

The play closed after just one week to disastrous reviews, but Pinter continued to write and was most prolific from 1957-65.

"With his earliest work, he stood alone in British theater up against the bewilderment and incomprehension of critics, the audience and writers, too," British playwright Tom Stoppard said when the Nobel Prize was announced.

"I find critics on the whole a pretty unnecessary bunch of people," Pinter once said.

In 1959's "The Caretaker," a manipulative old man threatens the relationship of two brothers, while 1964's "The Homecoming" explores the hidden rage and confused sexuality of an all-male household by inserting a woman.

"Betrayal" (1978) reportedly was based on the disintegration of his marriage to actress Vivien Merchant, who appeared in many of his first plays.

Their marriage ended in 1980 after Pinter's long affair with BBC presenter Joan Bakewell. He then married Fraser. Merchant died shortly thereafter of alcoholism-related disease.

During the late '80s, his work became more overtly political; he said he had a responsibility to pursue his role as "a citizen of the world in which I live, (and) insist upon taking responsibility."

During the '80s, Pinter's only stage plays were one-acts: "A Kind of Alaska" (1982), "One for the Road" (1984) and the 20-minute "Mountain Language" (1988).

Offstage he also was highly political: Pinter turned down former British Prime Minister John Major's offer of knighthood and attacked Blair when NATO bombed Serbia. He later referred to Blair as a "deluded idiot" for supporting Bush in the war in Iraq.

In March 2005, Pinter announced his retirement as a playwright to concentrate on politics. But he created a radio play, "Voices," that was broadcast on BBC radio to mark his 75th birthday.

"I have written 29 plays, and I think that's really enough," Pinter said. "I think the world has had enough of my plays."

Pinter is survived by his son, Daniel, from his marriage to Merchant.

Dale Wasserman, author of the book for the Tony-winning musical "Man of La Mancha" as well as the stage adaptation of Ken Kesey's novel "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest," died Dec. 21 of congestive heart failure at his home in the Phoenix suburb of Paradise Valley, Ariz. He was 94.

"La Mancha," the tale of the intrepid, ever idealistic Don Quixote, was one of Broadway's biggest hits during the 1960s. The show, which starred Richard Kiley and Joan Diener, opened in 1965 and won the Tony for best musical. It ran for more than 2,300 performances.

Its best known song, "The Impossible Dream," written by composer Mitch Leigh and lyricist Joe Darion, became a popular hit, particularly in a version by Jack Jones. The show has had several Broadway revivals since the '60s, with the latest in 2002 starring Brian Stokes Mitchell and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio.

Wasserman's adaptation of "Cuckoo's Nest," Kesey's novel about a renegade mental hospital inmate, opened on Broadway in 1963. The production, which starred Kirk Douglas and Joan Tetzel, ran for a little more than two months but became a fixture in community theaters. It was revived on Broadway in 2001 with Gary Sinise and Amy Morton in the lead roles.

Wasserman began writing television dramas during the '50s, then went on to pen screenplays including 1958's "The Vikings," starring Douglas and Tony Curtis, and 1966's "Mister Buddwing," starring James Garner.

The author of more than 75 scripts, Wasserman continued to work until his death, making revisions to a play based on his early hobo life called "Burning in the Night," his wife said. His latest finished play, "Premiere!" is set to open in a suburban Phoenix theater next month.

Page Cavanaugh, whose popular jazz trio bearing his name was a Los Angeles staple for decades, died Dec. 19 of kidney failure at a nursing home in Granada Hills, Calif. He was 86.

Cavanaugh, a pianist, composer, arranger and conductor, formed his celebrated trio with guitarist Al Viola and bassist Lloyd Pratt when they were serving in the U.S. Signal Corps. Their "whispering" vocal style became their signature.

When the threesome left the service, they almost immediately appeared on the Kay Kyser radio show and were booked in top Los Angeles nightclubs like Ciro's. Frank Sinatra heard them and took them to New York to appear at the Waldorf-Astoria and on his Old Gold Tobacco "Songs of Sinatra" radio show, where they also accompanied Jane Powell.

Columnist Walter Winchell said that "when the Page Cavanaugh Trio arrived in New York in 1947, it was the greatest thing since kissing."

A move to Hollywood resulted in the trio being featured in such 1948 films as "Romance on the High Seas" with Doris Day, "A Song Is Born," "Big City" and "Jingle, Jangle, Jingle." They recorded numerous sides with Day as well as with Sinatra, Peggy Lee, Johnny Desmond, Connie Haines and other singers of the era.

Viola and Pratt left the trio during the late '40s, Viola going with Sinatra, with whom he was associated for more than 30 years. Cavanaugh's musical partners changed during the years, and his latest collaboration for 18 years was with bassist Phil Mallory. Their sides included "The Three Bears" and "She Had to Go and Lose It at the Astor."

Cavanaugh also was a frequent guest on television, appearing on shows including "The Tonight Show" and "The Ed Sullivan Show."

After years of touring, the Page Cavanaugh Trio became a regular part of the Los Angeles music scene. Cavanaugh opened his own club in Studio City, and the trio later played Thursday nights for more than a decade in Newport Beach. Their last appearance there was in 2007.

Bud Prager, a longtime label executive and manager who fostered the rock bands Mountain, Foreigner and Damn Yankees, died Dec. 22 of esophageal cancer at his home in Montauk, N.Y. He was 79.

During the 1960s, the native New Yorker formed independent label Windfall Records with Felix Pappalardi, the esteemed producer of the three albums recorded by Cream. The record company grew into Windfall Music Enterprises, which included artist management, publishing, production and recording divisions.

Pappalardi and Prager soon brought together the players for Mountain; the band gained popularity after an appearance at Woodstock in 1969 and the release the following year of "Mississippi Queen" on their debut album.

After Mountain disbanded, Prager brought together guitarist Leslie West and drummer Corky Laing of Mountain and Cream bassist Jack Bruce to form "supergroup" West, Bruce & Laing in 1972. They lasted two albums.

In 1976, Prager began a 17-year management affiliation with Foreigner. After repeatedly being turned down by the major record labels, Prager secured a deal with Atlantic Records. The "group that couldn't find a label" went on to sell tens of millions of albums. In 1986, Prager helped "resurrect" Bad Company, with former Ted Nugent vocalist Brian Howe replacing Paul Rodgers.

Damn Yankees, featuring Nugent, Tommy Shaw of Styx and Jack Blades of Night Ranger, was another successful band during the late '80s co-managed by Prager. He also co-managed Megadeth from 1995-2001, helping that hard-rock outfit find commercial success.

Prager also was president of ESP Management and on the board of directors of MRD, a Toronto-based royalty recovery service.

Singer-songwriter-producer Delaney Bramlett, who penned classic-rock songs including "Let It Rain" and worked with musicians George Harrison and Eric Clapton, died Dec. 27 as a result of complications from gallbladder surgery at UCLA Ronald Reagan Medical Center in Los Angeles. He was 69.

Born in Mississippi, Bramlett enjoyed a career in the music business that spanned 50 years. With his then-wife Bonnie Lynn, he created the Southern blues-rock band Delaney & Bonnie & Friends. The group opened for Blind Faith, which featured Clapton, in 1969.

He is perhaps best known for standards like "Superstar," co-written with Leon Russell, which was recorded by Usher, Luther Vandross, Bette Midler, the Carpenters and, most recently, Sonic Youth, in a version featured on the Grammy-nominated soundtrack to the movie "Juno."

He co-wrote "Let It Rain" with Clapton, who also recorded it, and "Never Ending Song of Love," which was recorded by more than 100 artists including Ray Charles, George Jones, Tammy Wynette, Patty Loveless and Dwight Yoakam.

He recently released an album, "A New Kind of Blues," on independent label Magnolia Gold Records.

Ann Savage, who earned a cult following as a femme fatale in the 1940s pulp-fiction crime story "Detour," died in her sleep Dec. 25 from complications following a series of strokes in Los Angeles. She was 87.

Although her Hollywood career generally had been over since the mid-1950s, Savage had a resurgence during the past year with a key role in Canadian cult filmmaker Guy Maddin's "My Winnipeg."

Starting with her 1943 debut in the crime story "One Dangerous Night," Savage made more than 30 films through the 1950s, including Westerns ("Saddles and Sagebrush," "Satan's Cradle"), musicals ("Dancing in Manhattan," "Ever Since Venus") and wartime tales ("Passport to Suez," "Two-Man Submarine").

Savage was best known for director Edgar G. Ulmer's 1945 B-movie "Detour," in which she played a woman ruthlessly blackmailing a stranger (Tom Neal) she meets along the road.

Decades later, "Detour" and Savage gained a cult audience on television and home video.

Savage did some television during the '50s, including such series as "Death Valley Days" and "The Ford Television Theatre," then left Hollywood for New York, where she appeared in commercials and industrial films.

In 1986, Savage returned to acting with an appearance in "Fire With Fire," a drama whose cast also included Virginia Madsen and D.B. Sweeney.

Alan Neuman, a prolific producer, writer and director on 1950s television news programs, died Nov. 23 of heart failure at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. He was 84.

Neuman, who worked on more than 3,000 network programs, launched his career as a page at NBC in 1947. He then began directing and producing such '50s NBC shows as "Matinee Theater," "Inner Sanctum" and the Edward R. Murrow program "Person to Person," which had the newsman interviewing famous people in their homes.

Neuman was one of the producers on television's first national election campaign coverage and later served as a political adviser to President Kennedy. He won an Emmy for the Sunday afternoon news show "Wide Wide World" in 1957 and was nominated seven other times.

Neuman's credits also include "Meet the Press," "We the People," "This Is Your Life," "Ellery Queen," "Kraft Television Theater," "The Colgate Comedy Hour," "The Kate Smith Hour," "The Julie London Show," "Don Ho Presents," "Beat the Odds" and "Blind Date."