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Ossie Davis, 87, star of stage and screen, dies



Published: Sat, February 5, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



Ossie Davis, 87, star ofstage and screen, dies

NEW YORK -- Ossie Davis, whose rich baritone and elegant, unshakable bearing made him a giant of the stage, screen and the civil rights movement -- often in tandem with his wife, Ruby Dee -- has died. He was 87.

Davis was found dead Friday in his hotel room in Miami Beach, Fla., according to officials there. He was making a film, "Retirement," said Arminda Thomas, who works in his New Rochelle office and confirmed the death. Miami Beach police spokesman Bobby Hernandez said Davis' grandson called shortly before 7 a.m. when Davis would not open the door to his room at the Shore Club Hotel.

Davis was found dead, apparently of natural causes, Hernandez said.

Davis wrote, acted, directed and produced for the theater and Hollywood. Even light fare such as the comedy "Grumpy Old Men" with Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau was somehow enriched by his strong, but gentle presence. Davis and Dee celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in 1998 with the publication of a dual autobiography, "With Ossie & amp; Ruby: In This Life Together."

Their partnership rivaled the achievements of other celebrated performing couples, such as Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy. Davis and Dee first appeared together in the plays "Jeb," in 1946, and "Anna Lucasta," in 1946-47. Davis' first film, "No Way Out" in 1950, was Dee's fifth. Both had key roles in the TV series "Roots: The Next Generation" (1978), "Martin Luther King: The Dream and the Drum" (1986) and "The Stand" (1994). Davis appeared in several Spike Lee films, including "Do the Right Thing" and "Jungle Fever," in which Dee also appeared. Actors' Equity Association issued a statement Friday calling Davis "an icon in the American theater" and he and Dee "American treasures." House lights for Broadway marquees were to be dimmed Friday at curtain time. In 2004, Davis and Dee were among the artists selected to receive the Kennedy Center Honors.

When not on stage or on camera, Davis and Dee were deeply involved in civil rights issues and efforts to promote the cause of blacks in the entertainment industry. In 1963, Davis participated in the landmark March on Washington. Two years later, he delivered a memorable eulogy for his slain friend, Malcolm X, whom Davis praised as "our own black shining prince" and "our living, black manhood!"

Rock guitarist's wife gives birth to daughter

LONDON -- Eric Clapton's wife has given birth to the couple's third child, a spokesman for the rock guitarist said Friday.

The Sun newspaper reported that Clapton's American wife, Melia McEnery, gave birth to a daughter in a London hospital on Tuesday. Clapton's spokesman, Andy Prevezer, said only that "there has been a birth" and gave no other details.

The 59-year-old singer-songwriter has two young daughters with McEnery and a 19-year-old daughter, Ruth, from a previous relationship.

His 4-year-old son, Conor, died when he fell from a New York apartment in 1991.

Versace estate paintings to go up for auction

NEW YORK -- An impressive collection of paintings that once adorned the late designer Gianni Versace's six-story town house near Central Park is scheduled to be auctioned later this year.

The collection of contemporary, impressionist, modern and 19th-century works will be offered by Sotheby's in three sales in New York and one in London, the auction house said. It includes important works by Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol, Henri Matisse and Edgar Degas.

"This collection reflects Mr. Versace's wide-ranging taste and impeccable eye, and many of the works were commissioned directly from the artists," Tobias Meyer, worldwide head of Sotheby's contemporary art, said Thursday in a statement.

Notable death

LOS ANGELES -- John Vernon, a stage-trained character actor who played cunning villains in film and TV and made his comedy mark as Dean Wormer in "National Lampoon's Animal House," has died. He was 72. Vernon died in his sleep this week after complications from heart surgery last month, his family said.

Today's birthdays

Comedian-actor Red Buttons is 86. The Rev. Andrew M. Greeley is 77. Baseball Hall-of-Famer Hank Aaron is 71. Actor Stuart Damon is 68. Financial writer Jane Bryant Quinn is 66. Television producer-writer Stephen J. Cannell is 64. Actor David Selby is 64. Singer-songwriter Barrett Strong is 64. Football Hall-of-Famer Roger Staubach is 63. Singer Cory Wells (Three Dog Night) is 63. Movie director Michael Mann is 62. Singer Al Kooper is 61. Actress Charlotte Rampling is 59. Actress Barbara Hershey is 57. Actor Christopher Guest is 57. Actor Tom Wilkinson is 56. Actor-comedian Tim Meadows is 44. Actress Jennifer Jason Leigh is 43. Actress Laura Linney is 41. Rock musician Duff McKagan (Velvet Revolver) is 41. Rock singer Chris Barron (Spin Doctors) is 37. Singer Bobby Brown is 36. Country singer Sara Evans is 34. Actor Jeremy Sumpter is 16.




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