On the afternoon of 8 September 2022, Queen Elizabeth II, Britain’s longest-reigning monarch, sadly passed away at Balmoral, her home in the Scottish Highlands. Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland for 70 years, Her Majesty’s tenure can be defined by a sense of duty that has made her one of the world’s most respected heads of state.
Born Princess Elizabeth Windsor on 21 April 1926, she was the first child of the Duke and Duchess of York. During the Second World War, determined to do her bit, the 18-year-old princess joined the Women’s Auxiliary Territorial Service. She married Philip Mountbatten at Westminster Abbey in 1947, then welcomed her first child, Prince Charles, in 1948, and Princess Anne, in 1950.
Her relatively quiet life as a wife and mother came to an abrupt end in 1952 when she learned of the death of her father, King George VI, while on a royal tour of Kenya. She was crowned at the tender age of 27 in 1953, though she became Queen the moment her father died the previous year.
David McCullough, one of the nation’s most decorated historians and authors, died Sunday at the age of 89 at his Massachusetts home. He was a good friend of American readers and he was a good friend of the Library.
McCullough twice won the Pulitzer Prize and twice won the National Book Award (not to mention the Presidential Medal of Freedom), telling the story of both powerful and ordinary Americans, explaining the nation to itself in a genial and direct tone. He did this both in print, on the stage and on television, a thoughtful, reassuring presence. He was an honorary member of The Madison Council, the Library’s lead donor group, and appeared most recently at the National Book Festival in 2019 (before COVID-19 halted in-person festivals for two years).
“I’m saddened to hear about the passing of the great historian David McCullough,” said Carla Hayden, the Librarian of Congress. “His dedication in telling this nation’s story taught us more about the American spirit and its value to our collective history. For that we are forever grateful. He truly was an American treasure.”
Bill Russell, who died Sunday at the age of 88, was a towering figure in American life. Standing, he went 6 feet, 10 inches. In history, he seemed to stride the continent like Paul Bunyan, like John Henry: mythical, impossible, huge.
He won basketball titles everywhere he went — high school, college, the pros, the Olympics — and won them over and over again. His coach, Red Auerbach, summed up his career of 11 NBA titles by describing him as “the single most devastating force in the history of the game.” He was among the first Black superstars in professional sports, encountered racism at a brutish level and, strikingly for the mid-century era, made no attempt to be liked by problematic fans. Woe betide anyone who might have thought of telling William Felton Russell to “shut up and dribble.”
His high-profile civil rights work included, but by no means was limited to, going to Mississippi to work for integration in the wake of the assassination of Medgar Evers and participating in the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama, who noted that he “stood up for the rights and dignity” of all people.
Nichelle Nichols, best known for her groundbreaking role as Lt. Uhura on Star Trek, passed away on Saturday, a family spokesperson said on Sunday.
Her presence as one of the USS Enterprise’s heroic bridge officers was groundbreaking in 1966.
As an 11-year-old Whoopi Goldberg famously called out to her mother, “There’s a Black lady on TV and she ain’t no maid!” After completing the original show’s three seasons, Nichols continued her portrayal in a short-lived animated show in the early 1970s, and in a succession of six films from 1979 to 1991. She was 89 years old at the time of her death.
Born in 1932 in a suburb of Chicago, Nichols began her career as a singer and dancer, touring with both Duke Ellington and Lionel Hampton’s bands. She appeared at the legendary Blue Angel club in New York, as well as the Playboy Club, and was in a production of Carmen Jones in Chicago. She also had an uncredited role as a dancer in Otto Preminger’s 1959 film version of Porgy and Bess.
He was tough, he was sexy, and he was one of the most charismatic movies stars of the 1970s — he was James Caan, your go-to guy when you wanted someone who could be flinty yet charming, smooth yet volatile.
A Bronx-born, Queens-raised actor who claimed he was the “only New York Jewish cowboy,” the former Michigan State football player got bit by the acting bug when he transferred to Hofstra University, and was already making the bit-player rounds on TV shows (Dr. Kildare, Combat!, Route 66, The Alfred Hitchcock Show) in the early ’60s.
After director Howard Hawks cast him in two movies — Red Line 7000 (1965) and El Dorado (1966) — Caan started to attract attention as the next big up-and-comer. It wasn’t until the one-two punch of a TV movie about a gridiron hero and Paramount picture based on a bestseller about gangsters, respectively, that he became a bona fide star.
Even when he showed up in his later years, usually as a crusty old guy for added color or the human embodiment of AARP-age machismo, Caan was still the kind of performer who stopped you dead in your tracks.
Michael Mann and Kathy Bates have both shared tributes to “The Godfather” and “Misery” star James Caan, who died on Wednesday at 82 years old.
“What a terrible and tragic loss,” Mann wrote in a statement to Variety. “Jimmy was not just a great actor with total commitment and a venturesome spirit, but he had a vitality in the core of his being that drove everything from his art and friendship to athletics and very good times. There was a core of values within him about how people should be, more or less. It might be variable, the corners could be rounded with urban irony, but there was a line and it was non-fungible. And it produced many outrageous and hilarious anecdotes.
“Mann and Caan worked together on the 1991 crime film “Thief.” Caan starred as Frank, a highly skilled jewel thief and safe cracker. The movie was Mann’s first feature film, kicking off a long and successful career in Hollywood.